STEELERS vs. RAVENS AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M. HEINZ FIELD
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP PRESS CONFERENCE Ravens Players Friday, Jan. 16
QB Joe Flacco
On if he got an ice bath from the team for his birthday:"Yeah, they do that to everybody, and I figured I wasn't going to run from it. I'll just try to let them do it, and hopefully they won't enjoy it as much as if I was running from them."
On whether the best birthday present would be a trip to the Super Bowl:"That'd be pretty good. You know, it's up to us to go out there on Sunday and make that happen, but that would be very exciting. What [Derrick Mason] didn't tell you is it's his birthday tomorrow, too."
On how old Mason is turning:"I don't know. A lot older than me." [Laughter]
On how the positive chemistry on this team is being built:"We all are working towards the same goal, which is to go out there and get to Super Bowl and win that game. Everybody realizes that it's pretty easy to go in there and get along with everybody. We're a very loose locker room. I'm never been in another one in the NFL, but I'm not sure there are too many that are like ours. I think I'm very fortunate to experience something like it, and I enjoy being in there."
On why the locker room is so loose:"I assume it's always been like that here, just from the kind of personalities that we have on this team, the veteran guys that are able to go in there and be themselves. Nobody really takes offense to anything. Nothing gets by any of these guys, and we all joke with each other. I think that makes us really close."
On being on the same field with Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, who also had a lot of success as a rookie:"I remember watching Ben as a rookie. I think he got [to] the AFC Championship Game, and in his second year they won the Super Bowl. It was fun to watch those guys during that run, and now it's our turn to go down to Pittsburgh and go play for the Super Bowl. Like I said, we think we have the team… We're a bunch of confident guys going into Pittsburgh. They've got us twice this year, but it's going to be about how we play. We can't wait to be on the field on Sunday."
On if he has had any moments of reflection this season where he looks up at the crowd and can't believe this is his life:"No, not really. I just put my head down, and I'll look up when the season is over. Even then, I'm not sure I'll realize what has just happened. It's been a lot of fun this season being able to play as many games as we have. Like I said, we still have two more left, in our minds, and we're not going to be satisfied unless we get there."
On how important T Willie Anderson has been:"Willie has been huge. Me and him have talked, and people thought he was crazy when he announced he was going to come to Baltimore with the kind of record we had last season, and he was coming from Cincinnati. I think people kind of thought he was crazy – 'Why are you picking Baltimore?' – and he knew. He came here and saw it with his own eyes, and it's great to have a guy like that, a veteran guy, come in and just believe in what we're doing and from Day One just come in here and get along with everybody and want to help us out."
On whether he feels like he has improved a lot this season, if there are any moments from early in the season where he can look back and say he'd never do that now:"I can't really pick a specific moment. This thing with us is – and we've been saying it all year – is we want to improve each week. The offense has been new for everybody on our side of the ball, and therefore we're going to become more comfortable with each other each week. We're going to get better and make huge strides each week, and that's what we've tried to do each week. We've done a pretty good job of doing that. There have been a couple weeks where we feel like we didn't play our best football, but the bottom line is we've won a lot of those games anyway. We're heading into the AFC Championship Game, and the biggest thing for us is we still feel like we're getting better. We still feel like the Steelers are going to look at the previous 18 games, and they're going to get a different team come Sunday because we feel like we were able to get that much better. You've got to credit the guys. You've got to credit the receivers, the offensive line, the running backs and all those guys for getting in here and working hard and trying their best to do that."
On if they will be a better team this week than last week even with injuries: "Yeah, you know, we don't pay attention to the injuries. We've had guys step in all year and fill in for the guys that have normally been there, and they've done a great job. We don't make excuses. This is the AFC Championship Game, and that's the last thing we need to be doing. We need to go out there, focus on our jobs and play football the way we know how to."
On going back to Pittsburgh where his college career began:"It should be a lot of fun. [Pittsburgh is] a good football town. I'm sure the fans will be crazy and ready to go for the Ravens-Steelers matchup. Both teams are going to be ready to go. So it should be a lot of fun to go play, and it should be a lot of fun to watch. We can't wait to get there."
On what it has meant to have a lot of the veteran guys embrace him:"It makes it easy for me to feel like I actually do fit in and gives me the confidence to go out there and play the way I need to. Those guys have been like that from Day One. They've never made me feel out of place. As soon as I came in here, they've done all they can to make sure I feel comfortable on this team, and all I need to think about is going out there and playing the way I need to. That's the biggest thing with those guys. They've been kind enough to do that, and it gives me the confidence to just go out there and play and not have to worry about all the other little things."
*On whether he had ever heard the "What's my name?" story about Muhammad Ali before: *"I don't know if I've ever heard that story before until Coach Harbaugh's dad gave it to us. [It's] definitely a good story, definitely relates to how we play football. I think Derrick probably said it best."
*On quarterback being described as the hardest position and if he finds his job hard or easy: *"I don't know. I don't know if it's either. I think the thing you've got to realize is everybody wants to say the quarterback is taking his team there. In most cases, AFC Championship teams are really good teams. They have great defenses. They have a great offensive line, great receivers and great running backs. All you've got to do as a player is go out there and play your role. That's what I've been able to do this year – go out there, not try to do too much, just play within the offense, do my role, give my little part. As long as I do that, I feel like we're going to give ourselves the best shot of winning."
*LB Ray Lewis
On if he has reached the point where he feels like "Enough talking. Let's just play football": *"There really isn't too much to say. The bottom line is Sunday is going to take care of itself. Both teams are going to be well-prepared, and here we go."
*On if it seems like eight years since he was last in the AFC Championship Game: *"You know what? For me, it's almost surprising. I was just telling a friend of mine [that] for me, it's just the next game. You know the magnitude of this game, but the bottom line is you just want to go play your next game. So the years of going after it, going after it, going after it... Now, having the opportunity again, you really want to grab the moments. Does it feel like a long time? Of course, we've been here [in the playoffs] a couple years ago and things like that. But to be back here with the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl is always huge."
*On whether it is difficult to keep in mind that it is just another game or if that comes naturally to him: *"Definitely, when you become older, you try to keep your routine the same. Don't really change your routine, but just pick up your preparation because there's no going forward after this one. That's pretty much what you focus on. Outside of that, if you get caught up in everything else, then I think it takes away your focus from what the game is totally about. The game is really about just going out and doing your job."
*On if this team feels more ready for the playoffs than some other ones: *"To sum up our whole season, I think I would sum it up by truly saying it's like when preparation meets opportunity. That's what this team is built upon. We've prepared from Day One a certain way. We've always been, in-house, preparing that way. So for us, that's what it's about. It's about, 'Here we go with the opportunity.' We've got it now. We know we've prepared a certain way. Really, the opponent… Of course, you've got them on your schedule, but the opponent really doesn't matter to us. That's the thing we've been preaching all year to each other. The bottom line is can we put a 60 minute Raven game plan together and see what we've got at the end of the day. So for us, that's our next challenge."
*On what makes the team chemistry so good: *"Wow, I just think the men in general. You have a lot of leaders like myself, 'Mase' [Derrick Mason], Trevor [Pryce], Ed [Reed]. Just so many leaders, even Joe [Flacco], being so young. Everybody, I think they bought into the humility factor. If you watch this team, we've spent more time away from the facility together than we've spent at the facility. When you find that type of chemistry, it's a special bond, and I think that's why it grew week to week, coming in with a new coach and new changes and that. Having a new coach means everybody has to buy into one system, not that some new guys were coming into an old system or things like that. It benefited for us to really get that type of vibe coming in. Coach Harbaugh came and brought his package in, and everybody bought into it and said, 'You know what? Let's just ride this together.' So here we are today."
*On whether that's very different from teams he has been on in the past: *"Well, I would say it's very different because it was very new. It was very fresh, like I said, with the change of Coach Harbaugh coming in and Joe coming in. A lot of just new pieces. Everything was new, and everybody had to use each other to feel our way out on the field, how practice was going to be and how Coach was going to be. So, I would definitely say it has been different. We had a 10-year tenure of one head coach, and I've only had three [coaches in my career], so, yeah, it's totally different."
*On how the chemistry translates onto the field on Sundays: *"It's the greatest thing that a team can ever create, when you talk about that type of bond, because there's nothing on the field that rattles you guys outside of just wanting to be perfect in what you do. But when you're out there, you're talking to your brother. You're not having a conversation with someone who you didn't know where they were last night or things like that. You are with this person four or five nights a week, so you know this person. You know this person inside and out. I'm telling you, the blessing of our team is it wasn't just defensive players with defensive players. You see more defensive players hanging out with offensive players and offensive players hanging out with defensive players. I just think that's the beauty of it. That's the beauty of who we are as men, and everybody came together. It's just a beautiful piece of the puzzle to see this many men with spirits like we have."
*On how it will be different if CB Samari Rolle and LB Terrell Suggs can't play on Sunday: *"For us, it never changes. It never changes. Next man up. Next man up. We give guys grief all week for not going, no matter how serious the injury is. That's just what we do because everybody's dealing with something. That's just the way it is. But the bottom line is next man up. Let's roll. Let's roll, and the guy that's next up in Samari's place or Terrell if he can't go, in his place, they understand that. They understand that. They understand that the way they prepare, they understand that the way they practice… As well, there are so many people on the defense to make sure that those guys are helped along the way, as well."
*On if Suggs looked depressed this week: *"'Sizzle' is in his own world right now. We've got him on the board as being whiny right now." *[Laughter]
*On whether this meeting with Pittsburgh will be at a different level than all the ones before it: *"Yeah, realistically, I don't know if it can get any bigger. I don't know how big we're looking for. I just think it's going to be a great game, like I said. They play football a great way. We play football a great way. And, hey, here we go to clash. Bottom line, it's going to be a good game, of course. I think both games are going to be a good game anytime you're down to the final four, bottom line. But they're going to do what they do. We're going to do what we do. That's the beauty of who they are and who we are. That's what makes the games always close, always classy, because they stick to their identity, and we stick to our identity."
*On liking things to be hard and how this season has been that way: *"What happens is you create a stronger bond. Whether it's not having a bye, whether it's going through this injury, whether it's losing that person [or] losing this person, then everything else kicks in of you being a better leader, you being a better friend and things like that. That's why I tell you most of our success is coming from that because everybody has bought into, whatever we're dealing with, where it's like, 'OK, we're in this together.' So it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter at all. So whatever we went through in this season, hey, we went through it. We find ourselves here, so here we go for the next 60 minutes."
*On how much feeling disrespected was on their mind coming into the season and if they've earned respect now: *"The thing I think that's kept us balanced more than anything is that we didn't worry about what everybody else was saying from the outside, whether it was we were supposed to be finishing in the division last or supposed to be doing whatever the media outlets had [predicted]. But the bottom line is we knew what we had inside. You add a couple of pieces to what we already had, and that's why we're here. We have a veteran group. We have a veteran defensive group, but you have a lot of veterans now sprinkled in on the offensive side – Willie Anderson, Lorenzo Neal, Derrick Mason, Todd Heap… So you have a nice core group of men. So the bottom line is when you brought all of that together, we said, 'You know what? We're going to leave outside outside. Let's deal with who we are right now.' That's where I think the ['What's our name?'] motto came from when it was like when nobody cares what's going on, you find it within yourself the same way Muhammad Ali did. That's why he took it personal and asked the guy what was his name. That's kind of the same motto."
*On how much football he feels he has left in him and how his body is holding up: *"I've got too much football left. Like I said to those young guys, it's like anything: You take care of it, it takes care of you. God ultimately holds the ultimate whatever we're going to do in life. But the bottom line is if you take care of your temple, your temple is going to take care of you. I'm a man that's bought into taking care of my temple. That's one thing I do. I don't violate my body with nothing crazy. So life takes care of itself. So playing the game of football is what I was brought up to do. It's the easiest thing I can ever do in my life is wake up and play football, bottom line. So for me, I just love playing the game. So, I don't know when my day is done."
*On if his future as far as remaining in Baltimore is on his mind: *"No. Honestly, if I ever spoke about my future outside of Baltimore while I was playing this game right here, I would be a very selfish individual towards my teammates. That's why it's never crossed my mind. I've never dealt with it. I've never dealt with it in my career. That's just one side of my career I don't deal with because I don't do it for that. I do it, I play the game, for the love of the game. I don't get caught up into the business side of it."
*On remembering the first time he talked to Flacco and saw him: *"I liked Joe. I liked Joe. I've always liked Joe. I think it was the first OTA mini-camp we had, and I saw this kid throw the football. Before that, once we drafted him, I always go back and look at everybody's tape and see who we draft. I just fell in love with the kid, period. His athletic ability was without question. I was like, 'Wow.' That was the first thing that came out of my mouth. But then when I met him as a person, I just grew to him and just started messing with him from Day One, and then just started putting little things in his head about: 'We can do this. We can do that.' Just really installing in him that if you are ready right now, we're ready, so we can go as far as you're ready to go. So every week I walk by him, and I just give him a number, and we go from there no matter if the numbers go backwards or they go forward. We deal with the number, get it out of the way and keep on moving. That number, of course, got us to 11-5 and now [playing in] the AFC Championship."
*On what number he gives Flacco: *"The numbers. The count of the numbers of the week. The first week, we're 1-0, 2-0, 2-3… So we just keep counting the numbers, and that's the same thing I've said to the guys all year. The bottom line is deal with the next 60 minutes – win, lose or draw. That's it. That's all we can do. And so that's why I grab Joe, and Joe being a leader over there, I'm being a leader on defense. I said, 'Look, we're going to come together every week. We're going to see each other [for] 60 minutes. You've got on that side. I'm on this side. Let's get this done.' And I grew to him since Day One, so I just like the kid. He's a great, great young man."
On how Flacco isn't referred to as a rookie anymore, but if you can say that about other young players who haven't gotten so much playing time: *"That's the thing. The only thing that gives you, really experiencing this game, is experience. The more experience you can get, the better you're going to be at this game. And that's why I think Joe is catching on so quickly. Really, playing at the level he is, not turning the ball over, not making those mistakes, things like that... I think when you're in the game, the speed of it and the communication of it can be very difficult. But Joe is, he's been doing this for a while now. Joe is prepared."
*On his role for this year's AFC Championship game vs. the role he had during the 2000 season when Rod Woodson and Shannon Sharpe played: *"Yeah, kind of like me, Rod and Shannon [were the vets]. 'Be young. Just be young.' Rod and Shannon used to always say to me that, 'You give me life.' And now, I look at these young kids and I'm like, 'Wow, OK. Now I see what Rod meant. Now I see what Shannon meant.' Because it's a lot of things, as leaders, when you get older, you have to bend to kind of fit in now. So now you create your mold, you create who you are, but you bring the young guys along. That's the thing now for us. For me now, me being the older guy, I'm bringing guys along, bringing guys along, teaching them, educating them, giving them something they can take, not just in football, but a lot of football as well. That's kind of my role. It's a great role because it keeps you living."
*On if he's just having fun with this playoff process this season: *"Yeah, it's been our motto the whole year. And we like each other; we like our football team. We really do. We really do, and we like ourselves on Sundays when we play for 60 minutes together, we really do. That's where you find that looseness at. When you see us at practice, we like messing with each other, because if you're not accountable doing what you're doing, you're [going to] get picked on, one way or another. That's how serious we are about our business, bottom line. We're a very loose ball club, from the coaches all the way down to the players, and you can appreciate it, because when we step out on the field, we've got the same looseness, just with kind of a different outlook on the game, of course."
*WR Derrick Mason
*Opening statement: *"Take off the blazer, loosen up the tie, step inside the booth, Superman is alive. Let's go. Let's have some fun with this, come on."
*On if the rest of the team is as loose as he is: *"Yes, they are. We're having fun. This is an opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime, and I can attest to that. I've been in this league 12 years, and even though this is my third AFC Championship, this will be my second time being so close and having a team so good to get an opportunity to possibly play in the Super Bowl. So, I'm excited like everybody else is."
*On if he passed that message along to the group: *"Oh yeah, they know. When we got into the playoffs they understood what time it was. They understood this is a special team, this is a special moment and a special opportunity for us. So, we're going to take full advantage of it. We don't know where it's going to end, but we're having fun along the way."
*On how bad his knee injury is: *"I mean, the knee, it's fine. It hurts a little, but after you play 17, 18 straight weeks, something's going to hurt on your body. I think the good thing about it is that it's taking away the pain from my shoulder. So, now I no longer have to worry about my shoulder. I'm just worried about my knee. Typically, this has been going on for a bit, once game time comes and I get warmed up, I'm usually over it."
*On how playing 17 or 18 straight weeks has affected the team: *"I think it's affected us in a positive way because we understood after what happened earlier in the season what was laid out for us – that we were not going to have a bye week, that the majority of our games toward the end were going to be played on the road. So I think in a positive way it affected us, because we were able to come together as a team, stay focused. And we knew for us to make it to this point that we were going to have to do it on the road, and we were going to have to do it under tough circumstances, meaning no bye week, very seldom at home, and we had to play a lot of tough teams."
*On his response to hearing comments that the team is "out of gas": *"This team, the four years I've been here, this team has never been out of gas. Have we been hurt, injured? Yeah. But that's just like anybody else. But, out of gas? This team is never out of gas. We filled up, I think, in Week 11, so we've got a lot of gas left in us. Out of gas? No, we're not."
*On LB Terrell Suggs being doubtful for the game: *"He looked like it, too, didn't he? He looked like it, too. I mean, the first time I saw it, he looked bad, didn't he? Goodness gracious. I mean, like the guy was never going to play again. I don't know the situation with Terrell. He's, like Coach [John Harbaugh] said, he's been in the training room, getting rehab and trying to get back as fast as possible. So, I don't know what the situation is with him or Samari [Rolle]. I hope they can play. We anticipate if they can, they will be out there, but if not, then we'll see what happens. Guys have been like that the whole season, basically, not knowing until the last minute if they can play or not because of certain injuries. We'll see where this thing plays itself out at. If the guys can play, they can play. If not, then like I said, if you can play you can play, if you can't play, you can't play. So we'll do it that way."
*On why the Ravens are so good at getting turnovers in the playoffs: *"I think it starts, one, with the other guy that I call Superman – Ed Reed. He's been such a ball-hawk the whole season. And then it trickles down to everybody else. But, the defensive line has done such a great job of putting pressure, along with the linebackers, of putting pressure on the opposing team's offensive line and quarterback that a lot of times he's throwing off his back foot, or he sees one thing and all of a sudden you see Superman come flying back, catching the ball and running it to the other end. And then on our side of the ball, 'Joe Cool' [Flacco] has just been the way he's been, taking care of the ball and making the passes he needs to make to move us down the field. And our running game, they're doing a good job. The offensive line, I think, has been carrying us along the way the whole season."
*On if anything about Coach Harbaugh has changed throughout this season: *"I think he's been the same from Week 1 to Week… I forgot, 2, or whatever week it is. He's been the same. His message hadn't changed. His demeanor hadn't changed, attitude, whatever it may be, it hadn't changed. Whether we came in off a loss or a win, he's been the same coach, and I think that's good for the players. They see that regardless of what the situation is, that we have a coach that's steady. He's not going to get too high. He's not going to get too low. His message continues to be the same: Work hard, let this day be the best day you've ever had as a team. And, you know, everyone has bought into it, and each and every time we go out there to practice we try to make that the best day that we've had as a team. His message hasn't changed; he hasn't changed."
*On if the team's resiliency comes from the coaching staff or the individual players: *"I think it encompasses all of it – coaches, players, O.J. [Brigance], everybody. I think everyone in this organization feeds off of each person. We understand where we're at. We know why we're in this position. We know what we had to go through to get to this position, and regardless of what it is, we're going to stick together as a team, and we're going to find a way when we're down, we're not feeling so well, we're hurt or injured, to try to look to the next man to pick us up. And, it's been that way each and every game, each and every week. Someone's been able to pick another guy up that has been down, injured or not playing as well. And, that goes for the coaches as well. One coach will pick another coach up. That's the theme of this team. Regardless of what the situation is, we're going up that ladder, and if one man is lagging behind, we're going to have to pull him up."
*On if he has any superstitions or rituals heading into this game: *"No, not really. I haven't had any superstitions or rituals since I've played this game. I don't think you need those things to be effective in this game. The only thing you need is a bad attitude and some execution. The rest will take care of itself. I don't think this team has any superstitions or rituals that we go through. Every day presents its own set of problems, and we try to tackle them head on, whatever they may be."
*On what about the Muhammad Ali "What's my name?" story that really struck accord with this team: *"I think, with him telling the story… And, you know, we've got so many young guys on this team, they might not even know the story. I don't think Joe [Flacco] knows it. No, but, telling a story like that, about one of, possibly, the greatest athletes to ever play a sport, whether you want to call boxing a sport or not, but to play a sport... And what he did in that fight – you've got one guy wanting to call him Cassius Clay after he'd already changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and throughout the whole ordeal, press conference and all, he never recognized his name change. So you know what he said, 'I'm going to make you say my name. I'm going to make you say it.' And in the ring, he beat him up. He didn't knock him out. He didn't want to knock him out. Could he have knocked him out? I believe he could have. But he didn't want to knock him out, so the story tells, until he said his name. And when he finally said his name, then the fight was over with. 'Say my name!' 'Muhammad Ali.' Now we're going to end this fight, same with the Ravens. You don't want to recognize us early in the season, but we're going to keep on banging your head in. We're going to bang your head in, whether win or lose, we're going to keep on fighting and playing hard, and eventually, come week whatever it is now, you're going to know who we are. Not just opposing teams, everyone in the world is going to know who we are. We're going to make you realize that we are the Baltimore Ravens. I think that story is fitting for this team, because a lot of people looked at this team as being not so good, being a team that was in the bottom tier of our conference. Slowly but surely, we made all of you say our name, whether you wanted to say it or not."
*On what he's seen about the team chemistry this year: *"I think the chemistry has always been great here since I got here. But I found, even when I was in other places, I found that if you're not winning, there's a lot of stress in the locker room, a lot of stress around the building, because you're not winning. And, as much as you try to put on a happy face, or try to be positive, nothing comes out of losing. No positives come out of losing, especially if you're doing it consistently. I just found this year that, I think we made a pact with one another at the beginning of the season, that regardless of what the situation is, we, all 53 of us, have got to have one other's back, regardless of what we're going through. We've got to understand that as soon as we walk in that locker room that win or lose, that we've got to be willing to still communicate with one another, willing to still have fun with one another, willing to have one another's back. I think as the team started to go on, that chemistry started to build, and those relationships started to increase. Now we're all just having fun. There's no longer no offensive side of the ball, defensive side of the ball, and special teams. This is a group of guys out there having fun. I think Coach Harbaugh started it all when he switched the lockers up a little bit. Now he's got me sitting next to Ben Grubbs for some odd reason. That's probably the best thing that happened to Ben Grubbs in his life, is when he sat next to me. *[Laughing] But the chemistry has been great here this year, and one reason is because we're winning. But then I think, two, the second reason, is everyone has a genuine love for one another that I think goes beyond just playing the game."