Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "Welcome, good to see everybody. Thanks for coming. We're really happy to have you here in Baltimore, especially for this weekend – Championship weekend. We've started our process. Our guys are excited. They've put in some work already, obviously, over the last two days. We couldn't be more honored than to be playing the New England Patriots in this game. It's very fitting. [The Patriots are] a great organization, great coaching staff, great players, led by a great quarterback. So, it will be a big challenge for us up there in Foxborough. We're looking forward to it. [We] can't wait to get up there. But, we're trying to put our work in here one day at a time, and guys have started on that today, and we're off and running."
I know you don't like to single anybody out, but you knew Corey Graham could play corner even when you signed him as a special teamer. What are his best strengths or qualities he brings at corner? (Joe Platania) "Corey is just a great football player, and that's the thing. When you see guys play well on tape, whatever they're doing, if they do it well, you've got a football player. So, we started with that. He's got very good ball skills. He's got very good feet. He's got tremendous understanding of the game. He understands the coverages and things like that. [He has] good body control. So, he's got all the things that make for a good defensive back."
Already you've seen some changes with it being Championship week. Have you talked the guys about how to minimize the distractions? I'm sure there are more media requests, more ticket requests. How is that going? (Mark Zinno) "We have talked to them about that. It seems like it is going well. Guys are very focused. Our guys have studied a lot already. We have a team that studies football anyway. We've got a lot of guys that like football [and] spend a lot of time in their notebook, spend a lot of time watching tape. That's one of the major reasons we are here at this point, and we just need to continue that and build on it."
There has been a lot of talk about Ray Lewis' emotional impact. What have you seen from him in terms of how he's played in the two playoff games? (Aaron Wilson) "You're right, the football impact probably is always the most important thing. Our team loves to play, and they love Ray, and they love rallying around that. We have great leaders – Ed Reed, Haloti, Terrell Suggs, Joe [Flacco], Ray Rice, Matt Birk, Anquan Boldin. You can go right down the line. But, Ray has played well – that's the most important thing. And he still can play. He's been playing at a high level for 17 years. He's a top linebacker in the game right now, at this very moment, so he's made a difference for us."
This is you third AFC Championship game in five years. Do you ever take time to just kind of reflect back on that success? (Kris Jones) "Well, you know what? There's not a lot of time for reflection at this point. The task at hand is so daunting in front of us and such a great opportunity, you really think about that more than anything else. So, that's what we're looking at."
How do you think Joe Flacco's demeanor, the way he approaches things, helps in big games, the way he doesn't make the moment too big? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I'm not a psychologist, so I don't think so much about his demeanor and how it applies to his performance. But, it's got to be a good thing to be even-keeled at that position. And, when you look at the guys who have played the position over the years – you can go back and look at all the great quarterbacks – not too many of the great ones didn't have that. They managed to slow it down in the biggest situations and apply fundamentals and technique and reads. It's a very complicated position to play; there's a lot going on. So, guys have to do that."
John, can you talk about how the offensive philosophy has changed since Jim Caldwell has taken over? What specific things does his philosophy bring? (John Powers) "Well, not being a philosopher, I probably don't have the philosophical message, but schematically we are very similar. We haven't changed a lot. It's still the same system that we had in place. We call things the same way. Everybody puts their imprint on it, and Jim's done a great job with that. Jim was here all year, so he was a part of the process. We built the offense throughout the course of the off season, training camp. All the coaches who are involved with that have been a part of that from the beginning. All of our coaches have had that input. We have grown a lot in the last month. There's been some growth, and it has shown up in stats and things like that, and that's a credit to all of our guys, not the least of which, obviously, is coach [Jim] Caldwell."
Defensively, to have played so many plays the last few weeks, how do you think you guys are coming back physically? (Pete Gilbert) "We've done a great job with that. We are a highly-conditioned football team. Our guys work really, really hard at that throughout the course of the season, the offseason, all of it, and it showed up this month. It showed up over the last couple of games. It's been a real plus for us."
How important is it to match the tempo because of what [the Patriots] try to do, especially when they're playing fast? (Aaron Wilson) "One of the best things that they do offensively – and it's a great system in the sense that the coaches have put together a really good system and Tom Brady runs it so well – they look to create advantages for themselves, and they do it with tempo a lot of times. It's not just the fact that they go fast sometimes. They force you to line up. Sometimes they'll force the defense to show their hand because you have to defend the play. If you don't, they'll run the play. You saw last week they got Houston in some tough situations and it was big plays for them. It usually results in a big play. They had one, as a result of that, in our game the first time. We've done a really good job of that in the past. We did a good job of that with Denver. We run that offense, so we see it a lot in practice. But yes, you have to match that."
Why have you grown up offensively in the last month? (Jerry Coleman) "That's our process. We grow from the first day of the offseason program, right through training camp, right through the season. You try to get better at everything you do. And when we were struggling, in terms of [our] win-loss [record], we were getting better, we were improving. Anybody that studies football closely knows that. That's what you do as a football team – you either get better or you get worse."
You already talked some about Corey Graham, but how valuable has he proven to be with the injuries you've experienced to the secondary this year? (Matt Zenitz) "Just so valuable. Those guys have stepped up. If you look at our secondary [and] how well they played in this last game against that offense and against a great quarterback, and really, what they've done all through the season … It starts with Ed Reed. Ed Reed's done a great job in the back end. Our safeties – Bernard [Pollard] and James [Ihedigbo] – have done a great job, and all of our corners have played well. We're getting Jimmy Smith healthy; that's a bonus for us. Chykie Brown is a young guy who has played well. Of course, Cary [Williams] has been a staple back there all year. So, all those guys are doing a great job."
To be back where you were a year ago with the same opportunity, how have you seen last year's loss fuel this team all the way through the season, especially to this point? (Kim Jones) "Well, you probably are influenced and motivated by everything in life. And certainly, that experience up there, getting to that point … Obviously, everything it took to get to that championship game last year, and then being in that game and having it be such a great football game – an epic kind of a game – and then losing it in a way that was tough … It's tough to lose a game at the end like that. But, we have all the respect in the world for the Patriots. We play them a lot, and they're always tough battles. All the experiences that we've had against them help us going into this game."
Bryant McKinnie told us about a meeting he had with you in your office after the loss to the Broncos. Can you tell us a little bit about what your expectations were for him and how he's lived up to that? (Glenn Clark) "That's all just between us. Bryant is a great guy – that's the first thing. He's a guy that I have a lot of respect for, personally, and obviously as a football player. We all do, and he's a big part of us. Here's a guy that has been working hard all year, and he's been building to this all year. Things happen for a reason sometimes in life, and it's hard to say why. Why do you go down the road you go down? Why do things happen the way they happen? But, I'm pretty happy with the situation right now, and I believe Bryant is as well. He's healthy, he's in great shape, and he's playing his best football – the best football he's played in years. What a great thing for our football team and for him."
Can you talk about the way Dannell Ellerbe has progressed? He came into the season talking about how he wanted to be a better coverage linebacker in today's NFL. Have you seen him make progress in that area? (Ryan Mink) "He keeps getting better. Dannell works hard, and he's a very smart player. He understands coverages. He knows how to match different route patterns and progressions in each coverage. He's athletic, he can run, he's got good ball skills. He's just a really good coverage linebacker."
When you think back to your time in Philadelphia, what did you get from deep in the playoffs each season and finally breaking through? (Zach Berman) "Those are the experiences of life. We all learn. We're different. What do we know now that we didn't know when we were 22 or 17 or 30, or whatever it is? Those are just things I'm very grateful for, to have been a part of those things. But, more here, because the experiences we have had with the players here are the ones that we share, those are the ones to me that really make the difference for our football team."
What did you think of Joe Flacco making the cover Sports Illustrated? Do you think there is a jinx involved?? (Jane Marbella) "I didn't know he made the cover of Sports Illustrated. That's cool. Thanks for letting me know. I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in that stuff."
WR Anquan Boldin
On if the offense's confidence level is high: "As a team we're playing solid, I think, in all three phases. Whenever we have a big play happen [that] goes against us, guys don't get down. The next group just steps up. So, I think we're playing well as a team in all three phases."
On if QB Joe Flacco is one of the best deep-ball throwers in the league: "I would have to say so. I've never played with a guy with that much talent; I'm talking about physically. I think Joe is able to make any throw on the field. Talk about making big-time throws, the deep ball, he does it all."
On if Flacco needs to help get this team to the next level to get the credit he deserves: "That's a question you guys have got to answer. He already has our respect. I'm around the guy every day; I see what he does on a daily basis. So, I think he has the respect in this locker room."
On how impressive Flacco has been in the postseason during his career: "I think he's done a great job. If you look at his track record, the way that he's played – especially on the big stages – it's easy to see why we consider him our franchise quarterback."
On what the Ravens have been able to do well offensively against New England: "We just know going into a game against New England, you've just got to play well. They're a team that can put up a lot of points. They're a team that gives you a lot of different looks. So, we know going into a game like that we have to play well."
On if New England's defense has changed much since Week 3's matchup: "They definitely have different guys in different positions, personnel-wise. From the first time we saw them to now, I think both teams are different."
QB Joe Flacco
On the good numbers he has had and the impact the offensive line has on them: "The O-line, I think that's where it starts all the time. If those guys are playing well, I think we play well as an offense, and I think that goes the same across the league. And, these guys have really stepped up and are starting to play really well."
On his thoughts after LB Ray Lewis designated him "The General" after last week's game: "(laughing) I was getting beat up in the tunnel before the game by him, just taking a bunch of hits, and he was talking to me. It was pretty cool. Anytime somebody like that comes up to you – a leader like that – a guy that's had so much success in this league and is so loved by so many people, it's obviously pretty cool."
On how he uses LB Ray Lewis' "last ride" as a motivation to continue on: "You guys ask so many questions about it, and you make a big deal about it, but when we're out there, I think he's giving us the same emotional high that he always gives us. He always tries to jolt us forward a little bit on gameday and get everybody going in his own little way. When we're out there playing on Sunday, that's the last thing we're really thinking about. We're thinking about what we have to do to win this football game and get the ball in the end zone, and for them, stop the other offense. So, maybe it's working more than I would like to admit, but I think that's something that you kind of sit back and can enjoy after you've gotten the win and say, 'Man, it's pretty cool that we were able to do that and get another step further and closer to where we want to be for that guy.'"
On if he agrees that nothing else matters besides beating New England: "Yes."
On what changes he has seen in the Patriots' secondary: "They're a good football team, and they're still going to attack us in what they feel like is going to put pressure on us. I think they're going to probably come up and put pressure on our receivers. They always – throughout the years – like to get up and not allow our tight ends and our inside guys to get off the ball very well and play over the top of the outside guys. We'll see. We'll see if they match them on Torrey [Smith] or Anquan [Boldin] or anything like that. I think they've let up some yards in that area, but at the same time, they do a good job of playing very well and playing some man [coverage] underneath, and like I said, getting pressure, getting their hands on those guys to kind of re-route them a little bit. So, we'll have to be very good this week at combating that a little bit and running crisp routes and making sure that we don't allow them to hold us up."
On the differences in this year's Ravens team from last year's: "Everybody is a year more experienced. We were a pretty young football team last year, and I think guys like Torrey [Smith] and our tight ends and Tandon Doss and Ray [Rice] now have a little bit of a spell with Bernard [Pierce], and our offensive line is playing very well. I don't know what the difference is [from] last year. I felt we were a really good team last year, and we had a really good shot. Like I said, I think we're a little more experienced at this point, and we're playing very confidently right now."
On if he elevates his play in big games: "No, I don't really think so. You go out there and you play to win the football game and some of the things that have been required to win these football games have maybe been a little bit over the top and a little abnormal, but no. I would like to think that I go out there and play consistently and approach everything the same way. I think that's been proved out. We win a lot of football games around here, and this is actually the third time I'm standing up here getting ready to play in an AFC Championship game. It's pretty crazy when you think about it. Who knows what it's going to take to win on Sunday, but our mindset is it's going to take our best, and we're ready to go give it."
On if the game speeds up during the playoffs and how a team might slow down the pace: "No, I don't find that. I think that'd be putting every NFL player … I think that'd be a criticism to every NFL player out there. The fact that you're playing one way in the regular season and a completely different way in the playoffs, I think that's a bunch of crap. I think we go out there and lay it on the line every week, and like I said, I'd be doing myself a disservice and everybody else in the league a disservice if I were to say I thought the playoffs were different. I really don't. There's obviously a little bit more on the line, because if you don't win, you go home. But you've put yourself into that position and every one of those games was just as important as the others, so I don't really buy into that."
On if he has time to reflect on the game-tying touchdown during the Denver Broncos game: "Yes, a couple of hours after the game when we were still on that emotional high. After that, you have to put it behind you and take it for what it was and move on. It was obviously a pretty special moment, and we were pretty excited about it. It won't mean anything come this week."
On if throwing his last interception against Denver in Week 15 has affected him at all: "No. It affected me right there. I was pretty unhappy about it, and rather than possibly making the game 10-7, it was 17-0. I think I do a pretty good job of taking care of the ball on a consistent basis. Things like that happen, and you have to be willing to deal with it and come out and continue to play the way that you think you can. I think that's all that has been happening."
On his thoughts on making the cover of Sports Illustrated: "I don't know. I think I've seen it on an Instagram picture, but I haven't really seen it."
On if there is a curse to being on the cover of Sports Illustrated: "Sure hope not. It just depends on how we go play on Sunday. We'll see."
CB Corey Graham
On his thoughts on himself as a corner: "I like to think I can do a little bit of everything. I recognize routes really well. I like to think I am physical. I can tackle really well. You can always get better with other things. But, I am a pretty savvy corner, I would say."
On getting the opportunity to play corner in Baltimore: "It means a lot. When I signed here, it was one of my intentions. I wanted to go somewhere where I would have the chance to play. To have this opportunity to come here and play and do well, it means a lot. You feel like you are showing everyone what you can do, and that is all you can ask for is the opportunity, and that is what I wanted, and I am just happy I am getting it."
On playing alongside S Ed Reed and LB Ray Lewis: "Whenever you are in the locker room with guys like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, it is a different locker room. You have to be around those types of guys to realize what they bring to a team. Being in Chicago for five years, I have never seen anything like it. To just hear the motivational speeches they are giving, the way they talk, the way they teach, the way you learn here, it is different in this locker room, and I can see why they do so well."
On the type of defense played in Baltimore and what he is used to: "You have to remember, I was in Chicago, too, so we cared a little bit about defense also. But it is different there. The system, the scheme, how physical they are, the coaching, the scouting, from top to bottom, it is a different world. Some of the stuff that we recognize here and that the coaches recognize here, I never even noticed in Chicago. It is just a whole different world. They have some guys high up that are doing a lot of good work, a lot of scouting, a lot of nice stuff here, and I think it helps a lot with the players, and it helps to know what is going on."
On having mentors here: "Yes, it means a lot. You have guys that just know what they are doing. When you look at guys like Ray Lewis that has been here for 17 years … And I don't know how many years Ed Reed has been here – but I know it is has at least been 10 … Guys have been here … [Terrell] Suggs has been here, guys have been here awhile. They know what they are doing. They can teach you a little bit more, because they know the system; they know what is supposed to happen. They have seen probably everything you could probably see."
On how this defensive unit has managed to play at high level through injuries: "You have Ed Reed. Ed Reed holds everybody together. When the next guy has to go out there and get the job done, this is your job. When they are throwing you out there, they are depending on you to do well. You have guys like Ray Lewis, where this is his last year he is ever going to play, so you don't want to be the guy to let everybody down. So, when you get thrown out there, you want to make sure you hold up on your end, and you make plays and try to help your team win as much as possible, and that is what everyone has been doing. Whether it is Jimmy [Smith], Chykie [Brown], me, Cary [Williams], Lardarius Webb when he's here, everybody is stepping up to the plate and making plays."
On the challenges WR Wes Welker poses: "He can do it all. Everybody saw the game last week. I believe in the first half he had 100-some yards receiving. He is a very quick guy. He catches the ball well. [Tom] Brady is looking for him a lot, and he makes a lot of guys miss with fakes and things like that, so he is a complete receiver. I have my hands full in the slot, but I am up to the challenge."
On being a product of special teams: "When you are good at something, it is tough. For my rookie year, I was put into special teams, and I feel like I did well at it. So it's tough when you get the label of a special teamer, it is tough to get that label off of you no matter what you do. Lovie Smith, he loved what I did as a special teamer, and that is what he wanted from me no matter what. So, I could go out at practice and get six interceptions at corner, but no matter what in the meeting, I was going to be Corey Graham, special teamer. That is just how it was. That was what he wanted from me, and that was my role in Chicago. So, I went out there and tried to be the best special teamer I could be. I was fortunate last year to have the opportunity to play in a few games and make a few plays, and I knew that I was capable of making plays once I saw it. I was able to get three interceptions in three consecutive games, so I knew I was capable of playing at this level on defense, so I was just looking for an opportunity somewhere."
On at what point he knew coming to Baltimore was a good move: "I knew from the beginning, before I signed here, before I talked to [head] coach [John Harbaugh], I knew that it was a place that if you showed what you can do and if you showed us that you deserve to be out there, you will be out there. It wasn't really getting out on the field that made me realize it. I knew it from the meeting, previous situations. Brendon Ayanbadejo, for example, I played with him in Chicago. He came here from Chicago, and in Chicago there was no way he was going touch the field on defense. There was no way. Then he comes here, and I am watching games, and I am seeing him out there playing It is like, 'Wow. He is getting a chance.' That is all you want as a player is a chance to play, and I knew when I sat down with to talk to coach [Harbaugh] that he would give me that chance. That's all you can ask for."
On how the defense feels physically and how he will handle this week differently: "Nothing different. We are going to go out there. We are going to work as hard as we possibly can. We are going to get ready for this game. I feel great. I am pretty sure everyone else feels great. It doesn't get any bigger than this. What are you going to hold back for? So, we are going to go out there, make sure we work every day this week and get ready for this game."
On how you approach a team as successful as New England: "I measure it the same way. I don't care who you are going against. You are going against Peyton [Manning] or [Tom] Brady. Brady, he is a smart guy. We all know that is the reason he is probably a Hall of Fame quarterback. He is smart with the ball. He makes great decisions. He looks for matchups, and we have to just go out there and make plays. Whether it is on receivers or the run game, no matter what it is, you have to find a way to make plays, and you have to win your matchups."
On if this game means more because of going to school in that area: "All of my roommates were big-time New England Patriot fans in college, and all of my friends still to this day are die-hard Patriots fans and Red Sox fans. It is a big game for me, obviously. I went to college [New Hampshire] in that area. I was up there all of the time. I know what it is like. They have die-hard fans out there. Obviously, you don't want to lose against the Patriots, especially when all of my friends are going to be out there probably with a Patriot jerseys on. It's going to be a little different his week, but no matter who you are playing, you want to go out there and win. This is for all of the marbles to get to the Super Bowl, so this is ever bigger."
On what New England does on offense to confuse defenses: "They switch it up. When they make plays, they hurry up to the line, and they speed the game up on guys. If you're not ready, if you're not prepared for it, it will catch you off guard. They have been catching a lot of guys off guard, a lot of guys not set up and prepared for the play. They have been making a lot of nice plays like that. You just have to make sure that you are set. You have to make sure that you are set up as soon as they are set up and make sure you are prepared for the play and don't get caught off guard."
On if the season has felt like a wild ride: "It's definitely been big. We have had our ups and downs, and we've been winning, and we've been losing when nobody believed in us. It was just us. With Ray [Lewis] retiring, we know this is the last ride for Ray. It's big. I don't know how much you want to look into the Ray situation, but I know for me as a defender, it means a lot. I'm out there with him. [I have] an opportunity to play with him probably the last time ever, and you don't want to be the guy to let him down. Whenever you are out there you want to make sure you are making plays and make sure you are doing your job. That's all that you can ask is to go out there and play your hardest and do your job."
S James Ihedigbo
On if it's strange to be on the other side of this matchup after playing for the Patriots in the AFC Championship last year: "No, not strange at all. It's exactly where it's supposed to be. I'm here as a Raven. I love being here, I'm proud to be here and I'm proud to go out with these guys and fight for the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl."
On how much being in that game last year helps prepare for this year's moment: "I don't know if it helps at all. Teams change every year, but one thing we know is Tom Brady is a phenomenal quarterback. He does a great job with that offense in terms of getting those guys the ball, and that's really our focus on defense. We have our hands full."
On how much insight he can provide the Ravens on QB Tom Brady: "A lot of coaches who are coaching here have gone against him a lot longer than I've been in the league – six years. So, I don't know how much intel I can give into that. But, everyone knows Tom Brady and the kind of quarterback he is and the things he can do with that offense."
On how much different the Patriots' lineup is without TE Rob Gronkowski: "Not different at all. They do a lot of the same things. 'Gronk' is a phenomenal player – he had a tough injury, so he won't be playing – but besides that, in terms of that offense, they'll do what they do. Their offense is explosive, they get the ball going downfield, they move at a high pace and they score touchdowns. Our job is to stop them."
DE Arthur Jones
On the emotion at the end of the season: "This fourth quarter of the season has been really emotional with Ray Lewis saying he's retiring and playing against Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning and now the great Tom Brady. We're just trying to stack our chips and keep rolling."
On what this game means to his family, since he'll face his brother, Patriots DE Chandler Jones: "It means a lot. I think after the game when I have time to unwind it'll hit me a little harder. Right now, I am trying to figure out this team the best I can and get going out there and playing hard."
On whether he will have any other family at the game: "Yes, my brother Jon is coming down and I think a couple of cousins and a bunch of friends."
On what kind of hat they will be wearing: "That's a good question. Hopefully Ravens hats."
On if he's talked to his brother, Chandler: "Yes I talked to him yesterday. We've been going back and forth talking crap. Really, I have been just seeing how he's doing. I know he got rolled up bad last week, so I was trying to figure out if he was going to play or not and get the inside scoop. (laughter) But he's doing a good job not telling me anything. He's not telling me anything, but I think he is going to be out there. He's a hard-worker. I know he's getting treatment on it hard."
On what type of moment it will be like for his brother and his family: "It is definitely a great moment in sports. It is unbelievable. We are definitely a blessed family."
On if revenge has driven this team to get back to this game: "I am excited. I am not going to lie to you. We are in the same exact place as we were last year and everything is right in front of us. I say week-in and week-out it is a one-week season. If you lose, you're done. We have to take care of business, and everyone is going to go out and play hard and we'll be ready to go."
On if it is fate that these two teams are meeting in this game, or like QB Tom Brady said, these are the two best teams in the AFC: "I think Tom's totally right – the two best teams. If you look at the paper, they have played unbelievable on offense and defense. And we're rolling right now. I am excited. He's right – it's the two best teams. We respect them and they respect us. We know what we're going to get, and it is going to be a battle – man on man and mano-a-mano."
LB Ray Lewis
On if everything is starting to come together since he has come back: "I just think, going back to last year, we made up our mind at the end of the year that that wasn't it for us. That's just kind of how the seasons go. That's kind of how things go. For us to be back here again, same position, same situation, who would have ever thought of it but us? Would we have wanted the opposite? Why wouldn't you? The bottom line is the cards were dealt a certain way, so we're back here. My job as a leader and just being back here is to just always keep the guys focused, always keep the guys' eyes on the real prize, and that's each other. That's each other, because if we keep our eyes on each other, then everything else – no matter what comes at us – we'll be OK."
On how much he has been able to "knock off the rust" since returning: "When you've been doing something as long as I've been doing it, there is no such thing as 'knock off the rust.' It's kind of like just coming back in and just getting back in the football movements and things like that. I was doing that the whole time that I was off. I was doing a lot of just specific football training and things like that. Even when I came back, before I even got back to actually playing against the Colts, I came back and ran a bunch of scout team and really got after our offense, got after Joe [Flacco] and started to mess with them a lot. So, once you kind of get into that, the only thing else left is just tackling somebody to the ground."
On how he feels like he is playing the run and pass: "I love the game of football anytime my defense is playing well. Anybody who has been around me long enough knows that I am the last person to talk about myself. My No. 1 job is to put my defense in position to win. For us to do the things that we've been doing … The whole year has been kind of a roller coaster because of the injuries, and the first time me and Ed [Reed] and 'Sizzle' [Terrell Suggs] actually played together this year was the Colts game. So, there are so many things that we had to fight through all year. But, for us to fight through it and be where we are now, I think collectively as a group, we're really starting to dial things in."
On if he recalls another game that was physically as taxing as the game against the Broncos: "No, you know why? Because it was just one of those games. You get into that type of groove and both teams are making plays here and there, and we're going back and forth, and it was just one of those games that once you find yourself in … One game that kind of brings back the memory is probably when we went to Adelphia Coliseum [in 2000]. [It] reminds me a lot – the Tennessee Titans that year – it was just a very, very physical game up and down the field. If you remember that game, crazy things happened in that game, too – a blocked field goal and things like that. So, for the Denver game, to kind of play out, if I was remembering one game, it would probably be that game."
On if he feels that this team is a "team of destiny": "You know what? At the end of the day, like I always tell them, there will be one team that holds the Lombardi Trophy, and that will be the ultimate team of destiny for this year. And whatever race we have to run, we're going to run our race. But, I think the thing that [Ray Rice] is speaking about, when you do hear him speak about it, is how we kept fighting, how we kept keeping each other up and no matter who got hurt, next man up, next man up. And that's kind of the staple that we've had around here for a very, very long time. It's always next man up, and for us to fight through all the bumps in the roads that we have went through all year, I just think that's an awesome, awesome credit to our team."
On if he feels the same as DT Haloti Ngata in wanting to have another opportunity to play New England in this game: "I mean, if you write it up, there's no better way to write it up. We all felt the same way leaving there last year, that we had an opportunity to win that game. What better way to go back? If you were going to go to the Super Bowl, then to go back and go back at New England again. We know each other very well. I heard coach [John Harbaugh] speak about it, and every game we play is always those classic games. It comes down to that last play, that last drive. I think they know what we are bringing, and we know what they bring. And for us, we have lot to deal with. We're probably talking about, arguably, probably the best offense in football, probably the best quarterback, give or take. Coming from Peyton [Manning] from last week to now [Tom] Brady this week … So you're talking about the top, and anytime you're talking about the top, if you're going to go win a ring, then why not go through the top?"
On what it is like to have a chance to do something about the way last season ended: "That's the irony of sports. Everybody feels that way. Every team comes in every year saying, 'Can we do it? Can we do it? Can we do it?' And for us, we've had glimpses of a field goal missed, a fumble here, a dropped catch, whatever it is. And now, we have that opportunity again. I think you kind of … Ray [Rice] has been messing with me all day, but I've just been in this calm state because at the end of the day, nothing matters unless we're going to win in New England this weekend. Then we're back to the same position we were in last year."
On if he has given any thought to not retiring at the end of this season: "No. No, I knew, probably one of the reasons in my entire career I never spoke about it, but I always said to myself, I would know when it's time. And I knew that every sacrifice I made from the time I hurt myself was to get back with my team to make one last push. Because you look at the Rays [Rice], you look at the Joes [Flacco], and I told them, 'Everything I am giving you is so your career can go on.' One day, my career is definitely going to end, and for the ride to keep going the way it's going, it's just awesome. I just never slowed down to really think about, 'Will you come back?' 'No, I can't come back.' My kids are calling for daddy. It's a great reward to see the sacrifice my babies have made for me, and it's time that I sacrifice for them. I'm proud that the ride is still going. I look at my teammates, and after the Denver game, me and Ray just sat there, and we hugged on the field. He grabbed me kind of hard. I was kind of telling him to let me go, but it's just something that is just special. To end it, whenever it ends, then so be it."
On the impact that he has had on the City of Baltimore: "Who knew that famous phone call that I still joke around with [general manager and executive vice president] Ozzie Newsome to this day [would mean so much]. In 1996 when they drafted me, the first thing I asked was, 'Do we have a team name? What are our jersey colors going to be and all that?' Who knew that I would be a staple in Baltimore? But, it's been my passion my entire career to really not just be a football player. Football is my job – that's all it is. But, it's a burning passion inside of me to take what I do on the field and take it off the field. Off the field, it's just impacting lives, because at the end of the day, all of our eyes will close one day. When they do, my only job is to hear those two famous words from God himself, and that's, 'Well done.' Success is one thing; I've always believed impact is another. To go out in the communities and change someone's life, for real change their life, I believe that's what all of our jobs should be one day. It's not to compete against nobody in this. It's not to make somebody feel bad or make somebody re-live this or re-live that. It's to teach someone how to move forward. No matter what you go through in life, you have to find out a different way how to move forward. That's what I believe, as people, we have to get back to, and that's what my city has started to revolve [around] and started to understand that. That's what my foundation is built for. How can we truly teach people what impact should be? I'll die that way."
On what they do to counteract the Patriots' hurry-up, no-huddle offense: "For that, you've got to make the tackle. They are big into getting people out of position, and you watch the Houston game last week, a huge example of how they can confuse you and get you to line up not right, and then a touchdown is too easy. In a game of that magnitude, you have to be able to look at them and say, 'Come play football.' Because if they can get you out of position … I mean, anybody is going to do that. Defenses, we draw up schemes to get people out of position and things. So, anytime you get that type of offense, you've got to be ready to play every play like it's your last play."
On why he's setting the expectation to remain in a calm state this week as a team: "Because it's simple: We've been there before. It's something else if you haven't been there. If we're this new team coming back and saying, 'Hey man, this is our first time. Yeah, we're happy, we're successful.' You only play for a ring, and I've been there before. I've been there before. That's why everything else – cameras – they're great, but my mind is in a totally different place. And that's where as the week progresses, all my teammates' minds go in that state, because that's the team we're going to play. These guys have been champions many times, and for us to understand that, we've got to understand what it's going to take to go up there and win in New England."
On if he remembers that image of himself in the locker room after losing in the AFC Championship last year and telling his team they'd be back: "Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, because there was so much more surrounded around it. Just quickly: I missed an opportunity to see a young man go to heaven, because my head was stuck in film [before the New England game last year]. I missed that opportunity to watch that kid go home. That still lingers with me. And just remembering that is what I tried to tell my team to remember: 'Don't let this game ever dictate your emotions. When we walk out of this locker room, somebody is looking for you to be the bigger person.' Yeah, we lost the game, but it isn't life. It's not life. And that's the irony of sports: If there's a winner, there has to be a loser. Just like this whole weekend – four teams in it – two will walk out. That's the beauty of our sport. But there's a straight focus that you have to have, you have to have, to go win in a hostile environment against a very, very qualified team who has done it many times."
On who the guy was that held a leadership role for him when he was a younger player in his first playoff run: "That isn't hard, because I had a lot of them. But I think two that meant so much to me were probably Shannon Sharpe and Rod Woodson. Probably Shannon, because he had done it already. Rod, because he hadn't done it, and had one of the greatest careers I've probably ever seen an athlete have – somebody I have the utmost respect for as a man. And to look in his eyes, to know how he wanted to touch that Lombardi [Trophy] together, and then to listen to Shannon to tell him how calm you had to be and how prepared you had to be to go in … Because we had to go on the road – after we beat Denver – we had to go on the road to win in Tennessee and then go win in Oakland. And for him to teach me how you had to have your mind totally dialed in, it meant everything to me, because then I knew once we felt that confetti, I knew what it meant then, I knew what it felt like. All of the sacrifices that I had been through, I then understood why I sacrificed everything I sacrificed, and it was because of the leadership that they gave me."
S Bernard Pollard
On if this game has any similarities to last year's game or is it its own deal: "It is its own deal. Last year is over. For all of us, we're ready for this game. What happened in the regular season happened in the regular season. We're dealing with a team that's experienced. They have been here before. They know how to win. For us, we have to go out there and play hard and make it show on the field."
On going against QB Tom Brady: "I couldn't care less about who we play as long as we get the chance to play football. We are in playoff mode. If you win, you move forward; if you lose, you go home. We're fortunate and blessed to make it out of last week, and now it is time to show that we have to come back against this team to go to where we ultimately want to go – and that's the [Super] Bowl."
On how the team has success against Brady: "We have to go out there and play hard, and that's with any quarterback that we play. Tom is probably one of the best, with guys like Aaron Rodgers. They are all really good. With Tom, the guy is an elite quarterback. We have to be on our 'A' game at all times and not slack at all. You can talk about the game last year or the game this regular season, but for all of us on defense, we just have to go play hard. We have to have great eyes. We can't stare him down in the secondary. We have to be on our men. They have great receivers and running backs. We have to go out there and play our game."
On if he's worried about revenge: "We [could not] care less about revenge. If you allow revenge in football to take over on the field, that's when bad things happen. We just have to go play our game. We can't worry about what happened in the AFC Championship game last year. We can't worry about what happened in the regular season. We have to go play football."
On intimidation in this game: "There's no intimidation. You have two good teams going against each other. One thing I say to any football player who is intimidated – you're a coward and a punk. This is a man's game. This is what it is. I am going to call it how I see it. You don't fear no man or no team. We're going to go in there with our heads high and ready to play. We understand what kind of team we are facing. This is a very experienced team that has been there before. Coach [Bill] Belichick is [5-1 in conference title games]. I saw that this morning. But that does not scare us. We're going to go out, and we want to outhit you and outplay you and we want to go to the Super Bowl."
On if this game is unfinished business: "No, because if you call it unfinished business, that means that it is revenge. This is part of what we're doing. This is what we signed up for. In OTAs and training camp, we said the Super Bowl was our stop. We just don't want to stop there, we want to win there. With everything that we're doing, our eye has always been on that Lombardi [Trophy]. It starts with getting past this team. We just want to win."
RB Ray Rice
On what he has seen from QB Joe Flacco in big games: "For me, I've always said this offense goes as Joe [Flacco] goes. There is a lot of take in saying, 'We could have ran the ball, but we did this.' But Joe Flacco is truly our leader. Not only has he taken the role of our leader, he is leading us down this whole stretch. The one thing that he's doing is he is very vocal. He gets us lined up. He does everything that he needs to do as a quarterback. But what you've seen, we've been doing that he's doing is we are executing at a high level – playoff football. You put everything aside, Joe Flacco is playing lights out right now. We are riding with him. It's our job as a collective offense to keep this thing going. Everybody has a job. His job, obviously, is the hardest job on the field as the General, but we all have been taking parts, bits and pieces and going out there and executing. Ray Lewis said it right. He is the General. That's a lot of responsibility, but he's definitely taking it. He's taken it and ran with it, and he's doing a great job."
On the team being defined by its resilience: "After the win at the Denver Broncos, I sat home and said, 'Wow.' I really had to go home and say, 'Wow.' We are right back in the same place a year later. Just thinking about Ray Lewis' message to us and him saying that we will be back a year later … Look at all that we have been through to even get back to where we are at. We've been through a lot of adversity this year. To overcome the things that we have overcome, to be counted out, to be not good enough at times, to be back in the AFC Championship game is definitely a humbling feeling. I don't think you get here by accident. I think you play hard, you do the right things, you have faith in your team, you believe in each other, and you go out there and play for each other. Stats and all the other good stuff, you could throw all that aside, because one thing about our group is we have a very unselfish group. We are very unselfish. It doesn't matter who is getting the job done as long as we are getting the job done when we go out and execute, and that really feels good."
On getting the opportunity to "right a wrong" after last year's AFC Championship game: "To get another opportunity … I always looked at it as a different year, but to have that opportunity again really feels good this time around. We are dealing with always a 'last' around here. This is Ray Lewis' last hooray. You are looking at their coaches, they are coming back next year. Our General, our Captain – this is it for him. If you want to call it riding that emotional high, emotions, everything, of course we are, because we are dealing with something that is going to be a last. Every time that we've seen someone in the playoffs … The Colts, coach [Chuck] Pagano, we love him, but he's back to coach next year. Peyton Manning is coming back to play next year. Ray Lewis is not. That's what he said. He made that decision final. I think we all just put our pride aside, and if we are going to ride it, we are going ride it. But, we are going to go out there and give it our best shot for our guy. He's done it for us for 17 years and led our guys to one Super Bowl. We speak of it, and it stands right here. I'm not taking any credit away from the New England Patriots. They are battle-tested. They have won many Super Bowls. They set the standard on how to win. You think about a guy that has been a pioneer in the NFL, who has changed the way some rules are being written in the game … You can't hit guys a certain way anymore because of the crushing hits that he has hit, laid over people across the middle. You are talking about a pioneer that has laid a platform for him for the whole NFL. We would like to send him out the right way."
On how much of New England's defense plans for the run game: "Vince Wilfork is a beast. He is a flat-out beast. He handles double-teams. [If] you block him single-handedly, he bull rushes. The thing that's great about him is the speed. Some people think that because of his size he isn't going to be able to move as fast. He moves as quick as any defensive linemen in the league. And that short … Who am I to call somebody short? (laughter) That low center of gravity … Vince is not the tallest of guys. He knows that, but he is a force in that middle. I've always loved battling, going against a guy like that, because he is going to give it everything he has. He knows what it takes to win. I have tremendous respect for him. That's no knock on that whole defense. I think their defense, sometimes because their offense gets so much credit, that their defense gets overlooked. I can go down list by list. Look how they were able to neutralize the Texans last week. They took the run game away from them. That's something that their defense … They get up for games like this because they know that we run the football. They know that we do different things, but that's a prideful bunch over there. They are no walk-in-the-park defense. You have to go out there and execute at a high level."
On what the focus is like in the locker room and meetings room, and if it's different versus last year: "This time of year is about what you are willing to sacrifice for your guys, for your team. Obviously, there is more attention in meetings. For me, meeting rooms, yes, a lot of the things are the same, but we are just going over things. For me, it's just getting home and turning on that extra hour of film. It's doing little things. Maybe it's an extra hour in the training room. We aren't in a rush this week. We know we have the extra days. We know we did everything. It's our job to get ourselves emotionally, physically ready for the game. Meeting rooms and everything else, we are just appreciating another week to say that we are going at it. There are four teams left. Some of my NFL buddies are already on vacation. We're not. We have a job at hand, and you just put all the marbles on the table and go out there. Whether it's extra time in the training room or it's extra time watching the iPad or doing different things – that's the time that we have this week."
On why the offense is clicking so well right now: "One thing I have always spoken about is executing at a high level. We all just went out there, honestly, at some point and … Coaches call the plays and all that stuff, but we as players decided that we have to execute at a high level. It's our responsibility. One thing that coach [Jim] Caldwell has done for us is that he lets us go out there, and we have a game plan and regardless of the situation, we have been sticking with it. Joe [Flacco] can tell you that we go in there with a plan that we are capable of executing, and we just go out there, and we just try to execute at a high level. If things don't go perfect, one thing that you are seeing with the Ravens right now, we are going out there and we are executing on third down. When you execute on third down, you keep drives going. We've been having a lot of snaps the last couple of weeks because of our execution. That's something that we've been saying all year. The team that executes better on third down is the team that does well in games. That's what we've been at the last couple of weeks."
K Justin Tucker
On if anything has changed for him this week: "I don't think anything has changed. I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but we are just following our routine. We follow what we know. Morgan [Cox] and Sam [Koch] put up a good ball. It is pretty hard to miss when they do that. We have a pretty clear task ahead of us, and that's to be 1-0 this week. Anything that has happened in the last five years or 10 years or even in the last several weeks is all null and void now because we have a singular task at hand, and that's to beat New England."
On if he's in the position to kick a game-winner again, will he remain in the same calm state: "I will be because of what I was saying a minute ago. We have a routine that we follow, and we do what we know and do what we trust. We have such great relationships in this locker room, I think we'll always have a chance to be successful as long as we are sticking together like that."
On if it's easier since he already kicked a game-winner against New England earlier in the season: "I don't even think about that. Like I said, what is in the past is in the past. This week is all about our preparation today going out on the practice field. It is not about anything that's happened – even this past weekend. Every week is a new week, and any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday. That's how we are treating this week."
On his rookie year and what this ride has been like: "It has definitely been really fun. It is the reason you play the game is to be in big moments like this to be able to share these moments with all the people who have been on the journey – everyone in this locker room. Last week, no one had a doubt we were going to win that game at any point. 'Sizzle' [Terrell Suggs] said it best after the kick return and punt return [for touchdowns]: 'It is just going to be that type of game.' As long as we keep faith in each other, that's what it is all about. It is about cherishing these opportunities and these moments and being able to share them with all the people you've gone on this journey with."