STEELERS vs. RAVENS AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME SUNDAY, JANUARY 18, 2009 KICKOFF IS AT 6:30 P.M. HEINZ FIELD
RAVENS QUOTES - Monday, Jan. 12 Player Quotes - click on link
S Jim Leonhard
On how he is feeling and if his concussion was mild:"I think it was mild. I felt fine yesterday, so I should be ready to go. Hopefully, they won't hold me out of anything this week."
On what the matchup with the Steelers means:"It means a lot. There's not really any other way that we would want it, going through Pittsburgh, a division team. They obviously got us twice earlier this year, and we feel like to get to the Super Bowl it should've happened this way. We should have to beat Pittsburgh."
On whether he subscribes to the theory that it's tough to beat a team three times in one season:"I think it's tough. Obviously, this is for everything – to get the Super Bowl. So, I think both teams would've liked it to happen this way."
On if the Steelers looked different yesterday than when they played earlier:"They have their new little wrinkles that they do, but their core offense is what it is. They've been what they are all year long. They like to pound the ball, and they like to run the ball. But then they have [Ben] Roethlisberger, and they can [attack] in the passing game. It'll be a fun game, defensively. They've got a lot of weapons. We have to slow them down and hopefully shut them out."
On whether Steelers RB Willie Parker looked more explosive yesterday:"He looked good, and he was nicked up for a good portion of the year. To have him back at full strength, that obviously makes their offense that much more dynamic."
On creating turnovers against offenses that protected the ball well in the regular season:"We've just done what we did all year. When we create pressure up front, we make it hard for teams, offensively. Our front seven has done a great job the last two weeks in creating pressure and making it easy for this back end, and we've been very opportunistic. We've caught the balls when they were there and created turnovers, fumbles, things like that. We just have to continue to do what we've been doing all year and hopefully catch some breaks, as well. Hopefully, the same things will happen this week, and we'll get to the Super Bowl."
On losing twice to the Steelers:"It's tough. You really have that one day to look back on it, and it hurt, especially to a division team like Pittsburgh. You never want to lose games like that, but sometimes I think you have to have those losses in order to grow. And I think we've learned from those games, as well as the other games we lost this year."
On the idea of righting the wrongs from those games:"You always want that opportunity if you got beat or you feel like you didn't necessarily get beat, [but] you just lost the game. You always want that opportunity to play that team again. Like I said, Pittsburgh got us twice this year – and you give them all the credit in the world for doing that – but we feel like we have our opportunity here in front of us. We've had one goal this entire season, and that's to win the Super Bowl. We have to beat Pittsburgh to get there."
On his impressions of the Ravens-Steelers rivalry before he got here and what it is now that he's been through two games:"As an outsider, you look in, and you just know it's a very physical rivalry. It's obvious that the teams don't like each other. Being here, it's the same thing. You just know the people a little more and the history behind it. These games are what they're expected to be. They're physical games, and there's a lot of talking and a lot of things going on. You just know that you have to come to work for 60 minutes that day or you're going to get it handed to you."
On his journey joining this team this year and being so close to reaching the Super Bowl:"My journey this year has been great. Just to meet these people in this locker room and this organization and to be able to help out and play well, it's been so much fun. I tell all the reporters around here this is the most fun I've had playing football in a long time. It's a combination of things, like I said. There are just so many tremendous people in this organization that it's hard not to go out and have fun every day playing this game."
On whether being on a team with guys who prepare like LB Ray Lewis and S Ed Reed has changed the way he approaches the game:"I just try to pick up little things from them. They watch it until it makes sense for them. Everyone watches film until it makes sense to you and until you get out of it what you can get out of it and what you can use on Sunday. So I just try to pick their brain a little bit and see if there are little things that you might've missed or that they just picked up on quicker than you did. You just try to use every little thing to your advantage, and having those guys in your locker room and on your defense is a tremendous advantage."
On what it means to him when he hears comments like DT Trevor Pryce saying, "Thank God for little Jimmy Leonhard":"I'm a competitor and like to go out there and win. Whatever it takes on this team to win is what I want to do. I was fortunate enough to be placed in positions to make plays, and the fumble bounces right to me and things like that. Like I said, it's all about winning on this team. Luckily, I was the guy to be in that position last week. You never know who it'll be this week."
On pride being at stake with the two best defenses in the league:"There's a lot of pride in saying that you're the best defense. They've proved it throughout the year. They had the No. 1 statistical defense all year, and we were pretty much No. 2 the whole year. All that said, this is going to be a defensive game. It's going to be a physical game, and there'll be lot of hitting going on. Like I said, there's no other way that we would want this to play out other than to have to go to Pittsburgh and go through that Steelers defense."
On keeping distractions such as additional media obligations out of the way this week:"It's hard, but it's part of it. You have to do it. You know that these opportunities don't come around very often. Some people never have this opportunity to get to the [Conference] Championship or to get to a chance to go to the Super Bowl. So it's part of the territory, and you just try to go out there and prepare the same as you have all season long, but just knowing that your time commitments are going to change a little bit."
On his feelings about Rex Ryan's qualifications to be a head coach:"He has all the qualifications that you could ask for. If he doesn't get a head coaching job somewhere, I'd be surprised. He's a tremendous guy to play for, and I think he'd be a great head coach. Obviously, as a player, I would love to play with him, whether it's here or somewhere else. But I think, as Ravens, we would all like him to be back. But he has all the qualifications he needs, and he'll be a tremendous head coach whenever he gets his chance."
On whether anyone gave Ryan a hard time about his interviews:"We didn't give him a hard time. We talked about it a little yesterday. We got together to watch the game. We were all giving him a hard time when he wasn't there. Maybe we should've to his face. [Laughter] Like I said, it's part of it. He deserves everything he's getting right now, as far as opportunities. We know that, come Sunday, we're going to get all of Rex Ryan. He's going to be there for us. He's not looking ahead. He loves us. We love him. I think it's a great opportunity for both of us."
WR Derrick Mason
On playing the Steelers for the third time this season:"Yeah, I was ready the last time we played them to get an opportunity to play them again. There are some teams you know when you play them once or twice that there's a possibility you'll get an opportunity to play them again, and they were one of them. We knew if we continued to play the way we were capable of playing and the way we were playing prior to the last time we played them, that we would get an opportunity – just be patient. And the opportunity is here. It's here, and we've just got to take full advantage of it."
On the rivalry between the two teams and now having the chance to play them with so much on the line: *"What's on the line, man? Just the Super Bowl. It's not much. It's not a life or death situation here. No, I mean, they understand what's on the line, and we understand what's on the line. They're going to get out there and we're going to get their best. I think it's been that way both times we've played them. Both games came down to what, seven points, if you combine the two? A total of seven points. So, they know what type of ball game that it might be. It fits right into what we like to do. It's going to be cold. It might be snowing. It might be raining. You might get anything down there in Pittsburgh. The ground is going to be terrible. So, it makes for a very good football game."
*On the opportunity to get the taste of the previous two losses out of his mouth: *"It's good to get an opportunity to play a team that has beaten you, whether it be once or twice, to get another opportunity to play them again, to try to redeem yourself. Hopefully for us, the third time is the charm. It was a tough game down there. We went into overtime the first game with them. Come back [in] the second game and Santonio Holmes makes a great catch. A lot of people said it was questionable or whatnot, but it was a great catch, and it propelled them to a victory. Now we're back on even ground again, a new season. So, we'll see what happens. But, it's going to be a good game, a very good game."
*On what impresses him most about the Steelers' defense: *"They're versatile in what they do. They're not going to… You never know where certain guys are lining up at. Those guys just like to play. That's what I like about them. They like to play football, and you see it in their faces, whether they're up or they're down. Those guys are still playing, and they enjoy playing the football game. I think that's what impresses me about their defense so much – that you have a bunch of guys on that side of the ball who, regardless of the situation they're in, they like to play football."
*On how his shoulder is doing and if he is feeling better: "The shoulder is not the problem. The shoulder feels good. I could play today if I had to. That's not the problem. I just need to heal up my body, period. And, I'm going to get a couple of days to do that, get back on the practice field, and continue to do what I've been doing the last, I don't know, what has it been, nine, 10 weeks? Rehab it during the week and then go out there and play."
On if it will ever get to the point where he or his team runs out of juice:"No. I never run out of gas. The team has never run out of gas. Did you see that team? Did you see the way we played? We had to play that hard against a very good Tennessee team. If we hadn't had any gas, that team probably would have beaten us because of the way that they play football. They play it the same way we play it – a physical style. Whichever team runs out of gas first, that's who's going to lose. We didn't run out of gas. This team's still has got a lot of gas in them – a whole bunch. The tank is not going to be run empty after February 1. It's going to still be about half full. But, this team is never going to run out of gas, because even if it seems like we're running out of gas, we're going to will ourselves to continue to play."
On how the team is doing that without a bye: *"I don't know. I think we like it this way. After we lost the bye week we understood where we were going to be. We understood what we had to do. We understood the obstacles that were going to be in front of us. No bye week, we were going to be on the road a majority of the time, we were going to play against some tough opponents. So, it was all mapped out for us. It's not like everything kind of blind-sided us. Yes, the bye week kind of blind-sided us, but everything else we knew it was coming. So, we prepared ourselves for it. And when you can prepare yourself for a situation, whatever is thrown at you, you're going to be able to go in their full force and handle business the way it needs to be handled. I think this team has done just that. We've still got a few games left, and we're on the road again. We haven't got a bye week. Guys are nicked up, and people on Pittsburgh's side are [nicked] up as well. So, we're going to keep fighting and keep fighting."
*On if he feels the team hasn't run out of gas because they came out of training camp better conditioned:"I think since I've been here that this team has been a well-conditioned team, because you have leaders on both sides of the ball that make sure that when we do come into camp guys are ready to go, that guys are not out of shape, that guys are ready to go and ready to play however many games we've got to play during the season. Was this training camp different than the other training camps? Yes, it was. But, I think guys prepared themselves to have a long season considering what type of season we had last year. That was the sole motivation, to make sure you come in here fully equipped, well-conditioned, to make sure you don't have the same season you had the previous year."
On what he feels sets S Ed Reed apart from Steelers S Troy Polamalu: *"What sets him apart? I don't know. He's a good player. He's not Ed Reed, but he's a good player. You can't compare the two. I think they're vastly different at what they do. Of course, Pittsburgh likes to have Troy in the box a lot to get him to stop the run, and he does a great job of doing that. And then they get him out in the field when they need to get him out in the field to cover whatever space he has to cover. But, Reed is different, even when he's not covering, he's covering. Even when he's not in the box, he's in the box. I think there are two of those guys out there, two No. 20s out there. One in the box, and one over the top. So, quarterbacks have a hard time picking which one they want to go at. But Troy, he's a good player in his own right, too. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as a lot of these great safeties who have played the game."
*On what the Ravens' mantra this season, "What's Our Name," means to him:"I don't have one. Do I have one? It's just a slogan that we started a long time ago around here. We wanted to make sure, because I don't think that coming off the season that we came off of, not too many people picked us to be in the situation that we are now. A lot of beat writers… I guarantee 100 percent of you guys – even Chad [Steele]. No, 100 percent of you guys didn't pick us to be in the position that we are in right now. But, we wanted to slowly but surely make a statement, and we wanted to make everyone understand that we are the Baltimore Ravens and each and every time you play us you're going to realize that. You're going to know who's coming to town or you're going to know whose town you're coming into – and that's the Baltimore Ravens. And we preach that every time we step out of that locker room. What's our name? We make sure everybody understands and realizes that this team you're about to fight, you might now want to piece of 'em."
On S Jim Leonhard:"Jim Leonhard, he's a good… He's a football player, and that's what I like about Jim. I just like him. Throw away the 40 [-yard dash] times, throw away how big you are, how fast you are, throw away all that crap. I just want a football player. You give me a football player and I can win you a championship. Jimmy, he's a football player. We've got a bunch of football players on this team. Some guys might not be the ideal size, some guys might not be the ideal speed. But you know what? They're going to play football, and that's all I care about. Give me a football player and I can get a championship."
On how the Ravens' management was able to address personnel needs to put together a playoff-caliber team: *"I think the biggest thing that was done was adding depth to this team, because last year, I don't think… And year to year is different. You never anticipate the type of injuries that you're going to have. You know you're going to have a few here and there. The rash of injuries that we had last year, I mean, that was unbelievable. And to not have that kind of depth that we had, it caused us to be in the position that we were in last year. This year, we wanted to be prepared. We didn't want to go into a season – I know Ozzie [Newsome] and everybody upstairs didn't want to go into another season – being put in the same position and not having guys out there that could play football. So, they did what was necessary to bring football players in here – guys that can mesh with the guys that were already here, guys that understood the concept, guys that were going to buy into what the coaching staff was preaching. We brought in a lot of depth, and that is what's helping us now because we still had our rash of injuries. I think we're in the top as far as guys on Injured Reserve. But the big part about this year as opposed to last year, now we have guys that can fill in. And not just fill in and manage, but fill in and play well. And, you just go back to Jimmy Leonhard. He's a guy that filled in for Dawan [Landry], and he's done a phenomenal job in not just playing safety but being our punt returner and our kick returner."
*On if the Ravens/Steelers rivalry is a real thing for the players and does the team get especially motivated:"Now you have to, because there's only two teams left in the AFC. You take every game, you try to take every approach the same. It's to go out there and prepare yourself during the week to try to win a football game. But, you know when you're playing a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers that you're going to have to make sure every base is covered. You're going to have to make sure that you're physically willing to go out there and play 60 minutes of football, because if you're not, then comes that 55th minute, and they're going to embarrass you if you're not willing to play 60 minutes of football, hard-nosed football. I think that's what has made this game between these two teams such a good football game, because both teams are not willing to back down. Neither team is willing to back down in the 55th minute, or in the 59th or 60th minute of the football game. Neither team is willing to back down. So, like I said last week [about Tennessee], it's going to be a game for the ages. This is going to be a game for the ages as well. This is going to be a hard-fought game. Hopefully, it will snow. Hopefully it's about 10 degrees out there and the field is messed up, so when they replay this in about another 50 years my son can look at it and see how grimy the game was. But, it's going to be a good one, and hopefully we can come out on the winning end."
(Mason is given a "What's Our Name" T-shirt)
On if he plans to be playing in another 50 years:"Will I be playing in 50 years? Man, the way I'm playing now, that's right. You see this right here? (Holding up T-shirt) You see that? They're going to realize what's coming at them, quickly. Everybody out there, the teams that are left, they're going to realize the Ravens are coming. So prepare yourself."
*LB Bart Scott
*On if he expected that Baltimore would end up playing Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game: *"We were hoping it. We had some excellent games, I think. This is probably, this is going to be an exciting week, not just for us, but for football in general. I think it's going to be a great game. We've got two teams that are evenly matched, and we always have fun games when we play each other."
*On playing a team for the third time and the familiarity that comes with that: *It's just that – whatever team can make the proper adjustments, tweak things here and there. Whatever team comes out and makes the plays. In games like this the stakes are high, it's all about who's going to make that play to push your team over the top. We both have capable playmakers on both sides of the ball. It's going to be a tough one. We're going into a hostile environment once again on the road, and face all the things that come. We're facing Pittsburgh fans in that environment on that field with that great team. It's going to be exciting. But if you wanted to go to the Super Bowl, who else would you rather it be, but the Pittsburgh Steelers? It's an opportunity for one of our organizations to really build up the level of hatred for the next organization. So, somebody's going to be happy, somebody's going to be hurt. What other team would you rather do it to?"
*On if the Steelers' offense looked better in their game vs. the Chargers yesterday than when the Ravens played them in the regular season: *"Well, I was recovering from my game, so I was in and out of consciousness a lot during the day. But, from what I did see, I saw those guys make some explosive plays. You know, Santonio [Holmes], they're getting their playmakers on the field. He had a huge punt return. Ben [Roethlisberger] looked great. He played a great football game. Willie Parker, it looked like he had his swagger back, and that just raised the level of difficulty for us."
*On what has allowed the team to play through 17 straight weeks with no bye: *"Not talking about it like you are right now. You just made my back hurt by saying that. Thanks a lot. I mean, our circumstances are our circumstances. People adjust. If football was a game where we didn't have a bye week, nobody would complain. You would adjust and move on. We didn't have a bye week this year, we adjusted and moved on. No need to make a big deal about it."
*On if the Titans and Steelers are the two most physical teams the Ravens have faced this season: *"I would have to say so. I mean, you have two teams that still have the philosophy of older-type style of football. It's not the high-wire act that you see now with the 40, 50 passes thrown. It's two teams that try to impose their will on each other. Whenever you have two teams that are evenly matched, it always, both sides are going to pay the price on the body. And that's how we choose to play football. It's great. Those styles make fights, and we have two fighters. I look at it like [Miguel] Coto and [Antonio] Margarito. You got two guys – nobody's running, ducking or hiding from each other. We're going to stand in the middle of the ring and say 'I am,' and we'll see who comes out on top."
*On the taste he has in his mouth after two close losses to the Steelers this season: *"It was tough. It was bitter. The first one hurt a little bit more in the overtime. The second one, because we had to move on so fast because the stakes were higher… Early in the season, you have time to turn around and reflect on what happened and what's next. But when you're fighting for you playoff life, we had to hurry up and make sure that we had to go to another hostile environment and pretty much play in playoff mode for the rest of the year."
*On if the Ravens and the Steelers have the best linebackers in football: *"It's tough for me to say. But, we have tremendous respect for those linebackers. We think pretty highly of ourselves. So, I would have to say so. [They have] little bit different styles. I think they are more of a traditional [style] with both guys rushing off the edge, and we do a little bit more creative things. But not any… I wouldn't say one style is better than the other. They have great playmakers on that side of the ball, and we do as well."
*On having the opportunity to re-play a team that got the better of them this year: *"It's just the opportunity to… It's kind of like a rematch. It's a way to make yourself feel good. When you play somebody and lose to them, you hope that you get an opportunity to make it right. A lot of times when you play a team, you have to wait years to see them again and you're still not steaming like you were. We're still… It's still, I'm sure, in the back of people's minds how we lost that tough game. But, we've got an opportunity to try to make it right, and hopefully we can do that."
*On this being the biggest game a lot of them will have played in their lives: *"This is uncharted territory for myself as well, but I don't look at it that way. I look at it as I have an opportunity, one opportunity, to get somewhere that I always dreamed about when I was a kid. And that's playing in the Super Bowl. I don't know what that's like. There are a lot of guys around here that have had that experience, so you lean to those guys. For me, I am going to approach this game the same way [as always]. I approach every game like it's my last. I come in and I always see or look at starting in this league, for a player like me, as a blessing. So, I look at it as an opportunity to play and give it my all because I know what it's like to sit on the bench, and I know what it's like to just play special teams. So, whenever I get an opportunity to play football and allow my peers to see me play, I always take it very, very seriously, and I take it like the Super Bowl every time."
*On the prospect of Rex Ryan becoming a head coach: *"We really don't have time to talk about that. You don't have time to reflect. We're still moving forward. You worry about that type of stuff when the season is over with, and hopefully, that's not for another three weeks. We don't worry about that stuff. That's the nature of the business. You've got guys, teammates… The turnover in this league is what, 15, 20 percent every year? So, we can't worry about that. Just thinking about it now, he's a great coach and I think he's due. I think he's been deserving of a head coaching job, and we'd all be happy for him. But right now he's our coordinator and we're going to go out and play hard for him."
*On how the Ravens' management was able to select the right personnel to address the needs of the team that has made them a playoff-caliber team: *"I think as far as a management standpoint, I think bringing [John] Harbaugh in gave us a new philosophy and gave us a new way to approach work. There are a lot of ways to get things done. His philosophy is different from Brian Billick's, but I don't say I would prefer one style to the next. But I think it was a breath of fresh air. I think he brought in a great coaching staff. I think hiring Cam Cameron really helped. And Hue Jackson really put it over the top, because you have two who are very competitive, and that's something that we always had on the defensive side was that swagger and that aggressiveness of trying to be the best. I think Cam brings that same philosophy of not trying to be overshadowed out there by Rex."
*On how much Steelers WR Hines Ward is at the center of the controversy between the two teams: *"It's not like he's a vocal guy. It's not like he's in the media taking verbal jabs at you. You just know that he's going to play tough and he's going to try to make the game physical, and if he can draw you into a penalty, he will. That's the nature of him being a crafty veteran. You have to prepare yourself for it, and no matter what occurs out there you keep your head, you keep your cool, because trying to hurt him, or trying to hurt anybody out there, or retaliate, is hurting your team. You don't want to do that in a big-time game because everything in the playoffs is magnified. If you have a stupid 15-yard penalty, it can be the difference in five yards and clearing it across the bars for a game-winning kick or being able to keep the team out of field goal range."
*On what it was like watching the Steelers play the Chargers: *"Once again, I was in and out of consciousness, trying to recover. I've got two little kids that go to sleep when they feel like it."
*On if guys were calling or texting each other during the game: *"I think a bunch of guys went down to the ESPN Zone, and it was just us and they were watching the game. I'm sure they were rooting for the Steelers, you know what I mean, because you have to appreciate the way they play. And I love the way they play. You want to play the best, and I think they are the best right now. And you want the opportunity to prove yourself against the best. You want to test yourself. We look forward to it. We didn't want to go to San Diego. We want to go down and represent our conference. This conference wasn't given a lot of credit to begin with at the beginning of the year, and I think when you reflect you have to look back and give this credit to the AFC North, a lot of respect. We take great pride in whoever moves on, representing the AFC North and trying to bring this thing back and try to bring the title back to the division. You have team pride and you have conference pride, and you want somebody to come from this conference and win it."
*On the inspiration the team has drawn from O. J. Brigance this season: *"He's an inspiration. Like I said, he's the most courageous… He's the greatest man I've ever met in my life. A lot of people can talk the talk. And even before he was afflicted with the ailment [ALS], he spoke highly and he always was a great man of faith. A lot of times when people are faced with a test, they're not able to walk the walk. He walks the walk. He's a strong man in God, very faithful man, and he's proven that every day that God is an awesome God and that there is something greater to life than just football."