Head Coach Robert Saleh, 9.7
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Connor Hughes, SNY: Can you just talk a little bit about the decision to start Joe (Flacco)?
Obviously, with everything with the quarterbacks, we just made the decision that he (Zach Wilson) is not quite ready and we’re rolling with Joe.
Connor Hughes, SNY: When you talked before about Zach, you said you want him to be 100% before he’s back. Is that still the case or is there a situation where you can see him almost being there or 95% there and saying ok, let’s get him out there?
No. It’s going to be 110% and that goes mentally and physically. When he’s ready to go, that’s when we’re going to put him on the field.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (Follow up) So, what happens now? Is it a week-to-week decision now?
No, to be honest with you guys, I’m just going to lay this out. I really don’t want to talk about the situation anymore. The earliest he is going to be available is Pittsburgh. That’s going to be the earliest, just from everything we gathered over the last couple of days. Now, could it change? Sure, I’m always going to leave that door open. You guys know me, I’m the eternal optimist. We’re going to make sure that both mind and body are 110% and make sure we do right by him. We feel like, talking to the doctors and everyone, it’s going to be that Pittsburgh week.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (Follow up) That’s different though than you initially thought?
No, there was always that hope. You guys know me. There was always that hope, but after all the information gathering, it’s not worth the risk in terms of getting him out there and making sure. There’s the knee element, there’s the mind element, there’s the practice element. There’s just a whole lot of things other than the knee. He hasn’t had a setback. He looks fantastic. He still looks good. He feels good. You guys are going to get a chance to talk to him and you guys will see him. He’s not walking with a limp or anything. Just gathering all of the information and talking to their doctors, along with ours, and we’re just going to end it until Pittsburgh.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Was there ever a chance he was going to be on IR, the short term to start the season?
No, we don’t want him to miss practice time when he’s available for all of that.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Can he do any practice this week?
This week, he’s going to be off to the side with the trainers. Then, we will slowly, as a part of his rehab schedule, start implementing him back into practice over the next couple of weeks.
Connor Hughes, SNY: So, you would want him to have fully completed practice before he starts?
Ideally, 100%. Once that knee is ready, he’s going to have to get that thing tested, and you don’t want it getting tested in the game. You want our team to be able to test it before he ever steps onto the football field. He’s obviously on a limited basis and as he progresses, we will be able to test it more and more then get him the practice that he needs to prepare himself to play football again.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: How does he feel that he’s not going to play until then?
He’s a competitor. If you ask him, he will genuinely tell you that he can probably play this week, but at the same time, this is the long game. He’s a young man. We don’t want anything else happening to that knee, and that’s it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: When was this decision made? It feels like 50 hours ago it was a possibility he could play Sunday and now we’re talking about October 3nd.
This is all late, late last night and early this morning.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Is there concern at all, Robert, coming out of BYU, he had injuries his sophomore year and he missed a lot of time there. He missed time last year. He’s missing time this year. Is there any concern with him being injury prone?
No, I always go back and look at a guy like Jimmy Ward, and I know he’s on IR to start this year. He could not – and just talking about Jimmy Ward’s story – he could not stay healthy for a year and then he had a string over a couple of years where he was. You just knew if he could just stay healthy, he was going to be special. It’s no different. Injury is bad luck. Some things happen where you just get bad luck, and he just needs a string of good luck, and it will come. Eventually, it always balances itself out.
Connor Hughes, SNY: With Zach, I know the meniscus will heal, but with that knee bruise, is that something that he will have to deal with throughout the season? Will you all be monitoring if it causes discomfort throughout the year?
I don’t know. I think once the bruise heals, he’s going to be fine. Again, that’s probably more for a doctor. From my understanding, when that thing is 100% healthy, he’ll be good to go.
Joe Mauceri, WPIX: Have you had any conversations with him about his style of play and him getting out of the pocket and running? Because there was a similar situation last year where he tried to get some more yards in.
Yeah, getting out of the pocket, running, that’s his superpower. Being able to go off schedule and do all of those different things. You don’t want to take that away from him, he’s just got to be smart. It was a horrifying flashback to 2018 because he kind of has that same competitive juice that Jimmy Garoppolo has and Jimmy, against Kansas City in Week Two, running and just, instead of running out of bounds, tries to gain a couple extra yards, plants on his knee, tears his ACL. Thankfully, ours did not tear his ACL, but it’s that same mindset, get what you get, slide, don’t take the hit, go out of bounds, don’t worry about the extra yardage. That part, no matter how much you coach, it is learned through experience. They come from college where they are used to running people over and they’re used to diving for touchdowns and that was all part of the cool stuff that people showed on his highlight tape coming out of college, but they’ve got to learn it, they’ve got to adjust their game. That’s something that I think he’ll learn as he goes.
Connor Hughes, SNY: Just to confirm, Robert, I think people probably see that the optimism on Monday, that there’s a chance he would go Sunday, you just want to see how he responds after working him out, now he’s out four weeks, three weeks at least. There was no setback?
There was no setback, no, there’s no setback. Again, this is gathering all of the information, doctors, obviously they have a huge say in this and we were never going to put him on the field until he got clearance from the doctors and they’re pretty adamant about what his rehab schedule needs to be moving forward.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: When he had the scope, it was widely reported as “just a little trim” layman’s terms, was it more than that?
No, again this is more for doctors. I think this has more to do with the bruise and just giving it a chance to heal, I think.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Alright, now you’ve answered this a few times in camp, but now it’s real; the confidence level in Joe (Flacco)?
Heck yeah, man, cool Joe? No, he’s been preparing, he’s freaking awesome, and I’m really excited for him and his opportunity. Even at 37, I know that it’s in the back of his head, he’s getting the chance to play Baltimore and all these different things and even at 37, he’s got to keep the main thing, the main thing, and just do his best and trust his best is good enough and I think we are all excited for Joe and his opportunity and excited for Sunday.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Is D.J. Reed practicing this week?
Yeah, he’ll be back on the practice field today.
Antwan Staley, New York Daily News: The Baltimore Ravens are very physical, how do you match that intensity on Sunday?
We’re physical too. That’s how you match it. Sorry on that one.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, the challenges of facing Lamar Jackson?
Dynamic, fast, violent as a runner, he’s got a really good arm, can throw the football, he’s got good targets to throw to. He is special, it’s basically wildcat offense with him. His ability to tuck the ball and run, they’ve always had an extra gap, and then his speed to capture edges. He’s one of the most dynamic football players in the league and he’s an absolute bear to prepare for, so this is the ultimate challenge and it’s in Week One, so thankfully we’ve had all offseason to prepare, we’ll see how it works out.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Is (Chris) Streveler playing again this week? (Laughs)
(Laughs) Streveler’s playing them. I don’t know if there’s anyone in the league that can duplicate him, but he’ll try.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Can you describe, how unique is their tight end package? Is there anything unique to what they do?
One thing that I have a lot of respect for is the way they block in the run game, they’re very physical at the point of attack, they don’t get moved, usually. You know I played tight end and I know I couldn’t block a d-end (defensive end) speaking for myself, but we always talk about how d-ends should never get blocked by a tight end, that’s just our standard, but these guys are pretty freaking good. They strain, they block, (Mark) Andrews reminds me, he plays with a lot of intensity, reminds me a lot of (George) Kittle with the juice and energy he brings to the football field, but they’ve got a good group and this rookie showed up pretty good in preseason, so he’s dynamic as a pass catcher and stuff and so I’m sure they’re getting him ready to go on the run game too.
Brian Costello, New York Post: What’s preparation like for Week One when you don’t have a lot of film to watch, recent film?
Yeah, it’s fundamentals, rules ball. You do your best to stick to your principles. Obviously, you have to adjust some stuff based on what you have seen and you’re going to have your wrinkles that you’ve been working on throughout all of OTA’s and training camp, but at the end of the day, you are playing rules football and just trying to make sure that you digest as much information. They’ll reveal their game plan early just like we will and vice versa with our offense and defense. Then, just who can make that adjustment in game and continue to find ways to get better all the way into the fourth quarter, so you can finish fast.
Joe Mauceri, WPIX: Whether it’s game prep or in-game management, what are you taking away from year one as you head into year two?
Just the balance of the schedule. You know, I feel like we’ve had a really good offseason with our new situational game coordinator, (Dan) Shamash, but in terms of just how we want to approach things, what is our philosophy, and just him learning me and vice versa and using preseason to go through some of it. I know you guys don’t like time outs and challenges in the preseason, but you know just being able to work with him and to see where we’re at, so we got that work in, but it’s always the more reps you get, even for myself and for our coaching staff, the more reps we get, the better we’ll be at it.
Brian Costello, New York Post: I think it was back in May, you were talking about Sauce (Gardner) and you said sometimes teams formationally create matchups with the cornerback in the running game. I imagine this game is one of those. What have you seen from Sauce since then that gives you faith that he can handle that and what is the challenge of that for cornerbacks?
Just throughout training camp, he’s definitely not afraid. They’re all going to get tested. The backs will be on the perimeter. They know it, we’ve shown the film. Their backs, Lamar (Jackson), tight ends, they’re going to get to tackle everybody and I’m excited for him. He’s excited, he’s got that grill on, he’s got this big smile that’s blinding. He is really, really excited about this game and might have to calm him down, again, not to make the Catalina Wine Mixer, but it’s his first go at it.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: The rookies and the draft class got a lot of publicity when it happened, so how much are you leaning on some of these higher picks early in the season. Is that causing trepidation as a head coach?
No, it’s youthful. They’re young guys. You still have last years draft class, so you have a lot of youthful youth running around on the football field against a very experienced group. It’s just a really exciting time for them to get all these reps and get the experience that they need. Will they be 100% with assignment, technique and all that stuff? Probably not, but you hope that the mistakes don’t lead to explosive plays and you hope that their juice and energy and the explosiveness that they all possess creates explosive plays. There’s going to be hair pulling moments, but that kind of goes with playing youth.
Connor Hughes, SNY: This is similar a little bit to when Mike White played last year and played really, really good football and the offense got going. When you do have a quarterback that’s out this duration of time if it is a full four weeks or full three weeks, if this offense is performing really, really well, is this something where no matter what when Zach (Wilson) is healthy, he is back out there?
Again, Zach is our future. I’m not going to even come close to hiding behind that one, but when Zach is healthy, he is rolling.