Ravens Talk Vikings, Recent Struggles

It seems like the Ravens have been in this situation for the past few years. A third of the way through the season, sitting at .500 after a loss that should have never happened. The flat offense is even more frustrating to watch when you consider how well the defense has played, and how much higher their level of play could be if they weren’t on the field for almost 40 minutes a game. The Ravens have the 31st ranked passing attack, which is why their defense is ranked 16th instead of in the top five where they could be.


Head Coach John Harbaugh

Opening statement: “It is good seeing everybody. I appreciate you guys being here. It is a beautiful day, it is Wednesday, we are getting ready for the Minnesota Vikings, and we have already started the hard work.”

Do you feel good for a guy like WR/RS Michael Campanaro, who has really struggled with injuries, and yet, here he is making contributions on special teams and on offense? (David Ginsburg) “Sure. Michael, as you said, has had battles with injuries that have really plagued him throughout his tenure here. But to see him step up now and start making those plays … The punt return was a huge play in the game; he ran it exceptionally well. Really, all of the punt returns, he caught and went north and did a good job. It was good to see that.”

We just spoke with Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, and he said it is still up in the air, as far as quarterback-wise. Whether it is QB Case Keenum or QB Sam Bradford, does it really make that big of a difference? (Jamison Hensley) “We can’t look at it like that. It is not going to change our game plan. We are going to have a game plan for their offense. They are both a little different in the way they play. We will just play the quarterback that is out there. We know both of the two quarterbacks, so we will talk to our guys about both guys and run our defense.”

Minnesota ranks No. 7 in the league against the run. How important will it be to establish the run game? (Ed Lee) “It will be important. For us, the way we are built, it is always going to be important to establish the run. That is a big part of who we are. It does not really matter where they are ranked or who you play. I think [out of] all the defenses we have played, we have played one defense outside of the Top 9 this year in the stats. We are playing great defenses every single week. Every single one of those defenses have been excellent run defenses, with a few exceptions. I don’t think, really, [there are] any exceptions. You just have to find a way to run the ball.”

Is there anything you can tell the offense when it comes to that? One of the things that have been lacking have been touchdowns. You look at the overall picture, and I think in half of the games you have either had one offensive touchdown or less. What can be done? Is there anything? (Jerry Coleman) “Sure. It is a great question. It is football-related stuff. It is just, ‘Continue to go to work and get better at what we do and come up with good ideas.’ We have to execute. We are not doing as good a job in the red zone as we need to, to score points. Sometimes you want to run it, and sometimes you want to scheme it. We schemed a nice two-point [conversion] play up. The other thing is once you get in that area or on your way to that area, it is not giving up opportunities, too. We had three opportunities that we gave away. We had a fumble on the 20-yard line. We had an interception at the end that went back for a touchdown on the 30-yard line, and we had an early interception that bounced off someone’s hands that took away a drive. Those are three opportunities to score. Usually, when you look at the big-picture point, which is your point about scoring the touchdowns, it is taking yourself out of those opportunities by making those kinds of mistakes.”

Did you have an issue with the hit on WR Breshad Perriman? Did you think that was illegal? Is that something you guys turned in? (Jeff Zrebiec) “It was. We did turn it in. I am not really allowed to comment on it, but I will just say that I think we were correct in that idea. You want your players protected, and he is in concussion protocol. It was a … You saw it.”

When you present some of the issues that you brought to us on Monday to the team, is that where leadership comes in by accepting that and moving forward in a positive way? (Keith Mills) “That is such a great point. The thing I really expect and admire about this team – and the leadership of this team – is that we have a room that does that. We don’t have a defensive room. We don’t have guys who are crossing their arms and turning their heads sideways or pointing the finger. We just don’t have it. We have amazing leadership and guys who take responsibility. I do a tape every Tuesday afternoon, where I pick the plays out – it is usually between 60 and 80 plays – of all three phases that we go through together as a team. There are good things and there are things that aren’t so good. It is guys saying, ‘Yeah, I need to do better on that. I need to do better on that.’ I am usually talking about the good stuff. Or we are making the correction; we are making the change. Sometimes, it is a scheme thing. We have had issues where we have had guys say, ‘OK, this scheme, the way we are lined up here is a problem. This is how we are going to fix it.’ Everybody in the room has clarity towards the accountability part of what we have to do. I think when you do that, you have a chance to get somewhere, and that is how we do it here.”

Sometimes in the passing game, you look at the statistics and say, “Alright, the statistics reflect how we played.” Given the drops, did you feel that you really did what you wanted to and it is just the drops prevented what it should have been? (Pete Gilbert) “I do think that. I think our guys would acknowledge that. Those are big plays; those are yards. Those types of plays guys want to make. We will make those plays. We have to make those plays. We have the guys that make those plays. I just talk to guys [and say], ‘You are out here in practice making those plays. Be confident, let it loose.’ It is young guys for the most part. Go make the plays. It is your time, go make a name for yourself. The more opportunities those guys get, the more we have to believe that they will make those plays, and I do believe that they will.”

When you look at RB Alex Collins, I know his running style is violent and hard-hitting, but it also looks like he is pretty agile with good lateral movement. How important is that in addition to being the violent hitter? (Jamison Hensley) “He does bounce. He has great balance, as you said. He has great feet; he has great quickness. He has good vision, too. He kind of pinballs off of [tacklers]. He keeps his balance after contact, and he makes yards after the hit. That is the mark of a good back. Everybody has their different style. That is his style. Obviously, you are impressed by it, so I agree with it.”

I am not asking you to comment on someone’s reputation before they got here, but there is a perception about WR Mike Wallace that some of us thought … It has not been anything like that since he has been here. How important has his leadership been? He has really taken WR Breshad Perriman under his wing and WR Chris Moore – just being positive and stuff. He has handled some of the offensive struggles, it just seems, like he is a guy that has expressed a lot of confidence that the offense will get fixed. (Jeff Zrebiec) “That is such a great point. Mike Wallace … That is one thing you don’t do. Maybe it is a good lesson for all of us in life – this idea of judging people and things and circumstances, especially from afar when you have never met the person before or you have never been in their shoes or you don’t know what they are dealing with. Mike Wallace has been nothing but a leader, he has been nothing but positive and nothing but energetic. I love when he walks out to practice. He pumps me up. He is confident, and he wants the ball and he wants to play. But when things don’t go well, he is the biggest supporter of just improving and having each other’s back. I do not know if I could … I am probably saying too much already, but I think everything you are saying with the question is true.”

According to STATS, T Ronnie Stanley has only given up one hurry in the past three games and he is run-blocking really well. Where have you seen him make the most strides, and how big are the strides he has made from his rookie year to this year? (Ryan Mink) “Big strides. He is becoming … He is another guy I talk to all the time about making a name for himself. He does that with how you play. You are going to be lined up against the premier pass rusher most of the time, and he has another huge task this week. The spotlight is going to be on him, and that is the opportunity. In my opinion, he is destined to be one of the top tackles – if not the top tackle – in the league, and that should be his goal.”

You faced Minnesota’s head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense for six years when he was in Cincinnati. How much does that familiarity help you prepare for Sunday? (Ed Lee) “It does help a little bit. Mike also knows us; that is a two-way street. It is very similar to Cincinnati’s structure, still. When you look around the league, there are families of schemes in all three phases. That is a family, and really, Mike is the father of the defensive structure that they use, that certain teams use. It helps.

“A couple of things personnel-wise: We signed Steven Johnson as a linebacker. He is a linebacker, and he is a special teams player. Jonathan Freeny – just to make the point about him – he played really well for us. I wouldn’t … He may get signed by someone pretty quickly, because he played well. He is another guy that played well. We are just trying to do … Sometimes, there are under-the-radar moves, but we are trying to strengthen our roster as much as we can, and adding Steven Johnson is a good move for us. Maurice Canady will practice today. He will start his three-week process toward becoming active. We will see where he is at. We will watch him out there, see how he moves and see how he does. Then, Brandon Williams will also practice today. That will be another one that we will evaluate and see how he does.”

With DT Brandon Williams, how important are these few days, considering where your run defense has been the past few weeks? (Shawn Stepner) “It is important. Obviously, he is a great player. When you take a great player out of the middle of your defense, it is going to have an impact. That is not to take away from what the other guys did; I think the other guys played very well, especially for where they are at in their career. I should also say Carl Daviswill also practice today. We will see where he is at also. To your point, that is an adamant affirmative.” (laughter)

QB Joe Flacco

On if knowing head coach Mike Zimmer from his Cincinnati tenure helps with facing Minnesota: “Yes, I think it’ll definitely help, and the fact that Cincinnati still carries over some of those principles and things like that. It definitely helps the fact that we’ve seen that style of defense before. The personnel is different; these guys are a good group. So, we have a lot of things to handle. Yes, it should definitely help a little bit that I’ve, personally, have been able to face them for a while.”

On if there are certain tendencies that will carry over from one regime to another: “I don’t know. I think [Mike Zimmer] really … When you watch the Vikings, I think they have a lot of confidence in the guys that they have and in the personnel that they have. They play to their strengths, so I don’t know if a lot is going to carry over from the time that he was in Cincinnati [through] now. You can kind of get a good grip for what they’re doing. They’re not afraid, necessarily, to show you what they’re doing, because they have a lot of confidence in how well they do it.”

On how he approaches working with the receiving corps after Sunday’s performance:“The biggest thing for those guys is to continue to know that I have confidence in them. I let them know, ‘Listen, we’re prepared. We’re all prepared here; you guys are prepared. We’ve done our preparation.’ This is come Saturday night, Friday night [when I say this]. ‘We’re all prepared. Every one of us is as prepared as we can be. We’ve all been putting the time in, so now, it’s just going out there and letting it fly. Come game time, you can’t be thinking about anything like that. You can’t be batting an eye; you just have to go out there, and I’m going to continue to let it fly.’ Those guys are going to continue to do everything, in terms of letting it fly, that they can. From a quarterback, just like we all need that boost of confidence to continue to go, it’s the same thing. I let them know that they’re prepared, and let’s just go, let it go, and see what happens.”

On if he provides that confidence boost during the game, too: “Yes, there’s definitely a little bit of that during the game – especially on a game like Sunday when you’re not moving the ball that well. You have to keep everybody’s heads in the game and make sure they are continually focused on the moment and not about what’s happened the past six drives. That’s really about moving forward for us the rest of the season. We have to forget about what’s happened the first six weeks. We’re 3-3, and that’s what it is. It doesn’t matter what the stats are and all that. Our record is 3-3, and [it’s about] how good can we be moving forward? That’s really all that matters.”

On what he says to teammates to maintain confidence during the game: “Like I said, you’re always giving the guys those little boosts. A lot of times, football, this game, is about patience and being able to let the game come to you and still play within your rules and focus on the task at hand. That’s each individual play, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, doing exactly what you prepared to do all week. I think if we continue to do that, continue to just have that mindset – taking each play for what it is and running it as perfectly as we can and not worrying about this or that – we’ll start to see the ball move and start to see the ball be put in the end zone.”

On if he looks at Sunday’s turnovers as a fluke: “It’s tough to look at it as a fluke, because the more you have players that are out there playing well and doing the right things, then the less that stuff happens. But, when you look at those plays – it is what it is. It doesn’t really matter if it was a fluke or not. The bottom line is it took points away from us. I’m not saying that would have been a great game even if we didn’t turn the ball over, but field goals in those situations definitely would have made a difference or could have made a difference. You never know how the game is going to play out, so that’s the tough part of it. There’s no rule and no such thing as good turnovers, bad turnovers, lucky ones, unlucky ones. It all counts the same. Just like a win there this past week would have counted just like any other win; it didn’t matter if we stole it or not. It doesn’t matter why or how – we just need to make sure they don’t happen anymore.”

On if WR Mike Wallace’s personality is different than his perceived “diva” reputation prior to joining the team: “I hope we all have a little bit of that ego. Now, everyone shows it in different ways. Receivers are very confident people, and that’s the way they get themselves going. Mike’s a great, great locker room guy. Any of that stuff, in terms of being a diva – no, not at all. Mike’s great; he’s a ton of fun. He’s out here [at practice] catching touchdowns, throwing the ball up against the pads over there. That’s just who he is; it’s how he gets himself going. We love it. So no, I love Mike, and the opinion that I formed of him has been nothing but good.”

On if most receivers he knew had that same “diva” personality: “Yes, I mean, you have to have that. I think they all have it within them, and then when you’re able to go out there and make plays in the early point of your career, you’re able to show that a little bit and not be bashful about it. I think you, at least, have to have that in your personality. It might show a different way – it might not even show at all – but, you have to have that mentality of going out there. This is football. We play football; you can’t forget that. This is a violent, arrogant sport, and that’s how you have to play it. It might not always look good to the public, but that’s the nature of this game.”

On how he handles receivers approaching him asking for the ball: “I love it. It just means they want the ball. Now, it’s my job to go get it to them and deal with that. But, I don’t mind dealing with those personalities at all. It’s part of playing quarterback; it’s part of the game. I love it. I want all my guys to be like that.”

On the offense’s red zone struggles: “I don’t want to get to much into it. But yes, we can definitely do a better job in the red zone. We have to get down there more. We know. We’re identifying some of the issues and what they are and some of the things that are happening. I can stand up here all day and talk scheme and things like that, about progressions from me and route running. We know what the issues are, and we’re working on getting better at them.”

On how safe T Ronnie Stanley makes him feel in the pocket: “Ronnie is awesome. He’s a young kid that wants to know it all. When you have a guy like that standing to the left of you, it definitely makes you feel comfortable, because you know he’s on top of it all, and he’s going to do the right thing when the time comes.”

On the competitiveness of the NFL: “That’s what it’s built to be. It’s tough for a player to look at it. I don’t want to look at the big picture right now. Yes, we can talk all day about, ‘Hey, we’re 3-3, and everybody else is 3-3, and there are a couple teams that aren’t. We can steal a game here, steal a game there.’ We have to be so focused on this one game right now, and that’s all that matters to us. Because if we don’t, then at the end of the season, when we can all, realistically, talk about the big picture, ‘This happened in this game, and this happened in that game,’ we’re going to possibly regret trying to focus on the big picture things in Week 7, when we should have just been focusing on the Minnesota Vikings. So, I think as a player, that’s the kind of mindset I have. I’m so focused on those guys … The big picture is what it is – and yes, you can talk about those things – but as a player, I think we’re doing ourselves a disservice and putting ourselves behind the eight ball if we talk about those kinds of things. This is a very good football team we’re about to play. We have so much energy focused on those guys [that] it’s tough to think about the big picture and where we’re going to be after nine weeks; if 5-4 is going to be acceptable; if 6-3 is going to get you into playoffs. We can’t be worried what record is going to get us into playoffs at this point. We just have to focus one week at a time, win as many as we can, and when it’s all over and said and done, then we can look back and say, ‘Oh man, that was a big one!’ [Or], ‘Eh, that ended up not mattering so much.’”

On if confidence should carry over after a win: “I think as a player, when you don’t play a good game … You were out there and you went through it, but at the same time, you play a game like that, and you go home, you rewind it in your head over and over and over again, trying to figure out and trying to see the things we could have done better. I don’t want to say you’re scratching your head over it, [but] you’re definitely replaying it over in your head for a couple days before we can really get in here, turn the Minnesota film on and get past it. Then, we have to come in here and talk to [the media] on Wednesday and recap the previous week [more so] than looking forward to the next week. We’ve had this in our heads, we dealt with it, put it aside. We come in on Tuesday now, so you really try to put it aside by Monday evening, at the latest Tuesday afternoon, and move on to the next team. That’s what we’ve done. Last week, we have to learn from it, but we can’t dwell on it.”

On if he likes playing on the road: “I always like playing on the road. I love playing here in Baltimore, obviously. But, it’s awesome to be able to play in an NFL stadium on the road, where a bunch of people hate you and you know they’re going to be screaming bad things at you. Silencing one of those crowds is definitely one of the best feelings in the world, and that’s what we’re going to aim to do.”

T Austin Howard

On T Ronnie Stanley: “Ronnie is a hard worker. He’s always diligent about his technique out there on the practice field, week-in and week-out. He’s a young guy, second year, but he definitely lives up to the player that he can be. He gets better each and every week. He’s faced a lot of good blockers this year, that I’ve seen, and he’s handled them well. He’s a guy who keeps getting better and better each week.”

On the importance of establishing the run game against Minnesota: “We have to establish a good run game, good pass game, a good total offense – period. Obviously, offensive linemen, we love to run the ball; there’s no hiding that. We just want to get things rolling and make sure we prepare well this week and carry what we did throughout the week into the game.”

On what makes the Minnesota defensive line so challenging for an offensive lineman:“They’re a bunch of guys who are hard workers. They’re always finishing throughout the whistle; they’re always finishing at the end of the plays. One of their guys, [Everson Griffen, ranks fourth in] the league in sacks right now. So, we’re going to face a true battle this week, and we understand that. We have to come out prepared this week.”

On embracing the challenges Minnesota will present: “It’s a challenge. We understand that it’s going to be a challenge for us, and we understand how we have to attack it, how we have to approach it this week in that game. But, that’s the NFL – each and every week we face a pretty good defense. So, it’s just another day where we just go out there and do our job.”

On the key to the run game’s success this season: “We’ve had a good year of the coaching staff and the players being on the same page. There’s so much work that goes into each and every practice – you know, the little things here and there that we spend a lot of time focusing on, so that when the game comes … It’s almost like it’s harder in practice than it is in the game, because we’ve seen so many looks so many times throughout the week.”

On rookie G Jermaine Eluemunor’s first-career start last week: “I’m proud of Jermaine. It was a bit of a tough deal going into the game, kind of the start of the season for him [with] injury after injury on the offensive line, and him having to step up. From my standpoint, and from the group’s standpoint, he’s done pretty well for himself. He’s another guy like Ronnie [Stanley], who continues to get better each and every week. We’re just going to support him and do what we can to help him out.”

CB Jimmy Smith

On how frustrating it has been to allow so many rushing yards: “It is very frustrating. If you let a team run, it opens up other options for them. Obviously, we have been letting teams get the better of us in the run game on a couple of big plays, mostly. Getting the edge, there are some things we have to clean up and fix.”

On how much the return of DT Carl Davis and DT Brandon Williams could help: “It is huge. We have our $50 million man coming back. He causes a lot of damage up there in the front, so it is going to be great to get him back. Obviously, it is going to help our run ‘D’ tremendously.”

On what he sees in Vikings WR Adam Thielen and WR Stefon Diggs and if he needs to bring his A-game for those players: “You have to bring your A-game every week; this is the NFL. Just like any other week, it is a talented receiving corps, and we have to get after them if we want to win this game.”

On what he has seen from WR Stefon Diggs: “He is a really good receiver. He makes a lot of plays for them. He is a whole lot of their offense.”

On if WR Adam Thielen reminds him of anyone and what he does well: “No, [he doesn’t remind me of anyone]. He catches the ball, he is a good possession receiver, he gets open, and he finds how to get to the sticks. So, we have to definitely keep our hands on him.”

On not being targeted against Chicago: “That was a different game plan. They came out with a certain mentality that they were going to run the ball, and they stuck with that mentality throughout the whole game. That was just kind of reminding me similar of when we played Pittsburgh a few years ago, and they came out, and I think they ran ‘giant’ [formation] and ‘U’ personnel the whole time. They just left Antonio [Brown] in and ran the ball the entire time.”

On his impressions of CB Marlon Humphrey: “I think my impression as what all you guys get once you see exactly … Very young, very talented and you can see his press [coverage] ability is really good. The more he gets in the game, the better he is.”

On if he was pleased being able to play as much as he did Sunday against Chicago and get through the game healthy: “Yes, of course. I want to be in the game, I don’t want to be sitting on the sideline for anything.”

On if he anticipated playing as many snaps as did on Sunday: “Yes, I actually did.”

On the effect of seeing his teammates get injured and if it is frustrating: “It is difficult. We hate to admit it, and obviously, we live by a certain mantra of, ‘Next man up.’ But you hate to see when top players go down, no matter who you are or what you believe and your mindset. It still affects the team. Those are your best players, and when a big-time player like a [Marshal] Yanda goes down, obviously, you have to figure out how to fill the void. But those are still your team leaders, and you want those guys on the field. Brandon [Williams] is one of our best run defenders, obviously, but he is still also a big leader on the team. I think it is important when you have all those guys in the locker room and the games.”

On WR Mike Wallace being labeled as a “diva” prior to arriving in Baltimore: “He is a diva. We all know that. (laughter) But give that man the ball. Give him the ball! We get big plays, and it gets our offense going. Just give that man the ball.” (Reporter: “Good diva?”) “Yes. He is not one of those real [divas], like the ones you hear about back in the day, the Michael Irvins. But he’s definitely diva-ish.” (laughter)

OLB Terrell Suggs

On having DT Brandon Williams back at practice: “He’s been at practice. I don’t talk about injuries, but hopefully he’ll play. We’ll see – you know, baby steps.”

On how DT Brandon Williams looked at practice: “He looked alright, he looked alright. We’re going to take it day to day. So, you’re going to have to ask him.”

On if DT Brandon Williams’ presence is needed for the run defense, or if there are fixes beyond that: “You want all your guys. We always believe in the next man up, but this machine has working parts to it, and you need all of your parts. It’s always great to have one of the best interior linemen back on the team.”

On if it matters who the Vikings’ starting quarterback is: “No, it doesn’t matter. We got beat by a rookie quarterback last week. So, it doesn’t really matter who is starting. It matters which team executes more. So, it doesn’t matter.”

On what he likes about playing on the road: “I don’t know. You don’t have to worry about family and all that [stuff] when you’re at home. When you go on the road, it’s you, the team and the game. Unfortunately for me, I was born in Minnesota, so I have like 200 family members still there, still trying to get tickets to the game. We’ve always had a good following on road games with our fans, but we’ll have an even bigger [following] with me going home.”

DT Brandon Williams

On how it feels to be back at practice: “It feels good. Obviously, out there first day, I have been trying to get back. It feels like I never left.”

On the belief that he is the “savior” of the run defense: “I’m just a guy. I’m just a guy who is working to get back on the field. That is all I’m doing. Today, it felt good. I have two more days to go, and then hopefully, I’ll be back soon.”

On if there is enough time for him to knock the rust off this week and get back for Sunday: “We will just take it day by day, play by play and see how it goes. I am just trying to worry about practices and make sure I have all my bearings back.”

On if it has been tough to watch from the sidelines the last few weeks: “Yes. Not being in the game and watching your brothers go out to battle, it is always tough to watch. You want to be out there and you want to help, but there is nothing you can do. It stinks watching from the sidelines, but hopefully I can get right and get back out there soon.”

On what he has thought about the young players filling in for him: “I think the guys are doing a good job. They are going out there and giving it their all. That is all you want as a Raven – to go out there and give everything you have. The guys who have been out there are coming into their own – Willie Henry, Carl Davis. [Michael] Pierce has been taking a big load, but he is the guy for the job. You have [Chris] Wormley coming in, [Bronson] Kaufusi switching reps and all that stuff. We are looking good. Obviously, the more you are in there, the better you are going to be. This is the first time kind of having to be out there just by themselves – without me out there, without [Brent] Urban out there, kind of just Pierce doing his own thing. Hopefully, with more repetitions and more experience, they get better.”

On how it feels when fans constantly ask him on social media when he is coming back:“It is bittersweet. It feels good, but at the same time, we have other people out there doing a good job. It is kind of like, ‘What about my guys playing right now? Give them some praise.’ They are out there doing everything they can. At the same time, it feels good, from a player’s perspective, with the fans showing you love. It is bittersweet.”

On if he feels the weight on his shoulders to help the run defense get back to being dominant: “No, not really the weight on my shoulders. I am just prepared to get out there and do what I do best, which is stop the run, get after the passer and push the pocket. I don’t feel any weight on my shoulders, but I am urging myself to get out there.”

On if he has been out as long as he expected: “Well, this happened to me before during my rookie year. I came back after about three weeks or so. It definitely feels a little bit the same, just taking it day by day, taking it a little slower, obviously, because now I have a bigger role, so I can’t just throw myself back out there. But at the same time, I am working to get back out there as soon as possible.”

On the mentality he takes with him on road games: “Road games, it is a different animal, because it is someone else’s crowd. When your offense is out there, it is loud. When your defense is out there, it is pretty quiet. From a defensive perspective, we can hear a lot more. We communicate better; we can kind of tell each other what to do and make adjustments. It is one of those games where you have to pack your run game and pack your defense. You just have to go out there and give everything you’ve got and make sure they are on their heels and not you.”


Head Coach Mike Zimmer with Baltimore Media

The big talk around here is the Ravens’ struggle to stop the run without DT Brandon Williams and DE Brent Urban. You have a couple good interior D-linemen. How important is it to have those strong interior linemen and how difficult is it when you don’t have them? (Jeff Zrebiec) “Well, it’s always difficult. I think Baltimore has a good defensive front. Their outside guys are effective; their inside guys are tough. But yes, anytime you lose guys, it’s difficult. I don’t think it’s as bad as you all are making it out to be.”

What’s been the key to Minnesota being so effective against the run? (Ed Lee) “We’ve done a pretty good job with being in the right place, playing the techniques we’re asking them to play. We’ve given up a couple big runs which have hurt us a little bit. But, for the most part, we’ve been pretty solid that way and not giving up big runs. Typically, when you give up a lot of runs, it’s because your secondary didn’t force the ball the right way; they let the ball get out on a long run. So, we’ve been fairly decent at that so far this year.”

How much does your familiarity with your days in Cincinnati help in going against QB Joe Flacco on the Ravens? (Jamison Hensley) “They’ve change coordinators a couple times since I was there. But I know the players. I know Flacco fairly well, because I had played against him a few times. We had [Mike] Wallace here. But honestly, most of the other guys are different. [Marshal] Yanda isn’t in there now, so I think most of the other guys are different. So, it doesn’t really help too much.”

How did everything go with WR Mike Wallace on the field, working with the young receivers, from a locker room standpoint, while he was at Minnesota? (Jeff Zrebiec) “I really loved Mike Wallace. He worked really hard; he was a great kid. He obviously didn’t get the catches that he wanted to get, but he worked hard every day, was a good team guy in the locker room, and he was a good guy. I mean, everything about him was good. I couldn’t say any bad words about him.”

Can you talk about WR Stefon Diggs’ status? (Ed Lee) “No, not yet. We haven’t practiced yet, but he’s getting better, feeling better.”

What have you seen from WR Stefon Diggs and WR Adam Thielen? (Ed Lee) “They’ve been very productive. They both catch the ball really well. Both run good routes. They’re both good, competitive guys. We’re fortunate that we have them. They do a lot of the dirty work, and when the ball comes to them, they make plays.”

What are the keys to a red zone offense being effective, particularly when you’re trying to throw the ball? (Ed Lee) “It gets tougher down there to throw the ball, because everything gets so condensed. So, things happen a lot faster. The coverage is a lot tighter. I’ve looked at the red zone, but I couldn’t tell you anything yet. It was a quick look, so…”

What kinds of challenges do the Ravens present from a special teams aspect? (Jeff Zrebiec) “They’re probably the best special teams unit in the league. I know [special teams coordinator/associate head coach] Jerry Rosburg does an unbelievable job – always has. They have the two best specialists [Justin Tucker and Sam Koch] in the league. They have returned a kick for a touchdown, a punt for a touchdown. They have great cover units. That will be a big test for us to be able to match up against their special teams.”

Is QB Case Keenum starting Sunday, or does that still need to be decided? (Jeff Zrebiec) “We’ll see. [Sam] Bradford is feeling a lot better. So, we’ll see how it goes throughout the rest of the week.”

What has been the key to DE Everson Griffen? (Ed Lee) “In the last few years, he’s come into his own. He’s a very tough, aggressive guy, has speed off the edge, power. The thing about Everson is that he’s going to play for 60 minutes; he doesn’t take plays off. He fights, goes hard, plays the run, and then when it’s time to rush the quarterback, he does a good job there. He’s improved his pass rush techniques. He’s going to go hard every play.”

QB Case Keenum has only been sacked four times this year. Is he getting rid of the ball faster, or is it the offensive line doing a better job protecting him? (Ed Lee) “The offensive line is much improved. This season, we basically have five new starters in there. I think they’re doing a good job. I don’t necessarily think that it’s throwing the ball quicker or anything like that. I think our offensive line does a better job of protecting … The communication, the working together – all that stuff just seems to be better.”

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