ML: “This is an important football game. It's a division game. It's on the road. This is a football team that's physical, put together well, but obviously not having the season they've intended to have. We know we've got to be ready to play. This time that we've been able to look at ourselves and evaluate ourselves has been good. And I wish we were doing it with a little better circumstances in the last game, but we didn't. But it's been good for us and good for me to take a hard look at the football team. Now we need to knuckle down and get to the things we need to address. We've got to improve fundamentally in all three phases and keep pushing hard at that. I talked to the players hard about those things the last two days. Even going back and making comparisons of training camp and coming on to the season and beginning of the season to where we are now. There’s obviously been a lot of ground covered, a lot of good things, but let's continue to push the envelope in other areas.”
Would you elaborate on what fundamentals need to be improved?
Do you think there has been an inordinate amount of season-ending injuries to key players around the league this year?
ML: “I can't tell you that. I think, with where we are today, with everything so instantaneous, that there always seems to be that kind of impact. I don't know if that's necessarily the truth. I do know that the rule that was put in a couple years ago in the league, to be able to bring a player back (from Reserve/Injured), like we did with
What is it like to put together arguably your best roster since you’ve been here, only to see it so severely impacted by injuries?
ML: “I think the the good thing is how hard we have to keep pushing. Regardless of the situation, that you have to keep pushing. We come to camp with the best 90 players that we can, and there can't be 30 of them over 30 (years old) or over 28, or whatever. There's got to be a balance. There's got to be a reflection on who's going to do the yeoman's amount of work, and what happens if this guy goes down. Are we backed up well enough? The hard thing is, the better your team gets, the better your practice squad players are, and now they're fair game for everyone else. Your 53 might be a notch above, maybe your last 4-5 last guys are a notch above some other squads And I just think it shows you how critical April and May are, through the draft and the periods after the draft. You continually work the roster, going through training camp, and then with the vision of where we are as you come out of camp. It's something you have to deal with. When someone asks me about doing this job, it's the single hardest part of this job.”
Has your depth panned out like you thought it would?
ML: “We'll know when we're done. That's the key element. Knock on wood here, last year when we got a player injured, and we tried some guys out, and you know everything worked well. You're also subject to that, the luck of the draw. What’s available and who's there.”
Can injuries play too big of a role in who wins and loses in the NFL?
ML: “They made decide, but we we can't get hung up on that. I showed our guys the last four or five Super Bowl champions and the amount of people that went on IR. They overcame it. The best team in the NFL year after year finds a way to overcome all the obstacles that come along the way. Go all the way back to 2009 with the New Orleans Saints, and each year, those teams put double-digit numbers of players on injured reserve. I think that's a fact. Their leadership of the team, the maturity of the team, it all plays out. The playmakers of the team have to step up and win, and the coaching of the team. We've got to coach better and that's important. We can't let our guys flinch.”
You showed your team those numbers … Was that important to get it across to them in the wake of
ML: “Yes, it was.”
You've changed the culture here about turnovers and the value of the ball, but this year there's been a high number of turnovers. Any reason for that?
ML: “No, but it goes back to what I said earlier. We’ve got to go back to fundamentals. We've got to be right. We've got to take care of the ball. We've got to put the ball where it belongs. We've got to run the route the way it's designed to be run. We've got to put the comfort back on the quarterback, let the quarterback be comfortable with where you're going to be. And then conversely on defense, we've got to keep tackling well, we've got to keep popping the ball in the air until we can create something. They come in bunches. We've just got to keep tackling well and stay after it.”
How do you emphasize that to the offensive players?
ML: “You point it out. Every practice rep is pointed out. If this isn’t right, this is where it needs to be. And then the protection of the football, the running to the ball, that if that ball happens to go on the ground, this is what’s happening. We’ve created some amazing turnovers on defense. The play that
When you see a situation like the ones with John Fox and Gary Kubiak, how close does that hit home?
ML: “It’s something that I think we’re conscious of all of the time. We’re conscious from the medical staff point of view. We’re fortunate as NFL players and coaches. We’ve got the best medical staffs that you could have in the world. We get the best medical care. My parents have something happen in Pittsburgh, I call the doctors in Pittsburgh. They get to go see the best people in the world, so we’re fortunate that we’re looked at that way. From what I understand, and I’ve only communicated with John through texts, this is something they hoped to address after the season, and it’s come up now. As coaches, we have a schedule that is strenuous, and yeah, we spend a lot of hours doing what we do, but we love doing it. I look forward to it. Friday (after the loss at Miami) sucked, but it was an all-day thing. And Saturday was as well. It’s no fun. Last year after the (Thursday night) Philly game was a little more fun. But it’s still got to be the same intensity about it. That’s what we do as coaches, and I think Wade (Phillips) expressed that about Gary (Kubiak). I know Gary felt that way. This is what you do. We try to address it by schedule. Our guys stay after it as far as their cardio and things like that. We try to eat right. We’re able to make right choices. We don’t always do that, but at least we’re able to.”
Do you keep same regimen during the season as the offseason? Up-and-at-‘em early?
ML: “Yes. It doesn’t show when I look at pictures, but I try (laughs). It’s the only time I know that I can guarantee myself. If I can get here very early, it’s time that I can guarantee before something falls on me. You know what I mean? Before the world starts to crumble around me (laughs), that I can get my time in. Everyone knows where I am. I’m either in that (cardio) room, or I’m in the stadium. People know where I am, and they can find me if they need me. But it’s my time. It’s my thinking time, it’s my clearing the head time and so forth. And after I catch up with what you (media people) say everyday, then I can address it. My mind is clear.”
We used to hear more about coaches who would just spend the night at the facility. Has the mentality changed over the years?
ML: “Somewhat. I still think it’s situational. Where do you live? How far away? All of those types of things. But I do think we’re all more health conscious than everybody used to be in general, in our society, and it’s important. You do this job for the time period that you do it so that hopefully, you can enjoy a productive life after you’re finished. A great example of that is Jim Anderson (Bengals coach who retired after 2012). I don’t know how many days he’s been in the state of Ohio since he retired this year, and that’s great. He worked all of that time as a coach for so doggone long in order to realize that and be able to reap the benefit of that now and enjoy his life.”
How has Baltimore’s defense changed?
ML: “You know, I don’t know. They’ve got some new players. They’ve got two young safeties. (James) Ighedibo and (Matt) Elam from Florida. They’re new guys. They’ve got basically two new inside linebackers that weren’t there for most of the year, but I look over and they’ve still got (Terrell) Suggs playing his tail off, and you’ve still got (Haloti) Ngata inside. You’ve got guys that have been there and been in the system. They add (Elvis) Dumervil, they add (Chris) Canty, so you’ve got some guys that have been great pros. They’re still working at it. They’ve got 27 sacks this year, so they’re getting after the quarterback. We’ve got to protect our doggone quarterback.”
Do you have a comment on the Miami hazing and bullying?
ML: “It’s something that I think has gone a little bit too far, and unfortunately things come up negatively when they don’t get nipped in the bud. I can 100 percent tell you that Andrew (Whitworth), Domata (Peko) and our guys in that locker room, they understand There are certain things, traditions that we have for the rookies, but you can’t let things get out of hand or too far. You don’t want to be degrading or demeaning, because we need those guys. That’s what we tell them from the start. The fun they have at training camp with the singing and the rookie show, carrying the helmet off the field, that’s not a great deal. We have a little bit of a breakfast tradition here (a different rookie providing it one day each week). There are some things that are fun, and I think every time you add a pro from another team, it’s interesting. Dhani (Jones) brought a great rookie tradition when he came here. It’s good that way, but this is a team. We’re a family, a very close-knit family, and we need every one of our family members to feel great about each other every single day. I think guys come here from other teams and realize what a good group of guys we have. I walk downstairs at six o’clock (in the evening), and there’s 25 guys still hanging around. They’ve been in the shower, the weight room, the steam or sauna or whatever they’ve been doing. Cold tub, hot tub, shooting baskets, but they’ve been here enjoying themselves. That’s what you want. It’s important to keep that kind of environment, because it’s their profession. It’s their job, but it’s one that they don’t get to do for very long. You want them to enjoy every second of it when they can.”
Do you keep your pulse on that through the veterans?
ML: “I think you have to, yes, and I try to. I was part of it when I was the linebackers coach of the Steelers. That’s my first experience in the NFL, and they’ve got the rookie deal and going out to dinner, but we came up with a great system the next year. We had a little internal system that we fined each other for, and that money went toward the rookie and paying for some of the cost of the night. That was a good thing. Everyone had fun with it. Everyone had an investment in it. It was good. This is a little fraternity within the deal. But, again, obviously things went too far (in Miami) to be degrading and demeaning – supposedly. That’s my only comment on it.”
AD: “I think it was good for everybody to have a little break, Some guys got away a little bit. For us to have that in the middle of the season, where we are right now, I think it's definitely beneficial that guys can get some rest. Everybody's back ready to go.”
Did you do anything to get away?
AD: “I went back to Texas a little bit. I saw TCU play. It was the first time I went back and saw them play. I saw some family, so it was a good time.”
Is this a definitive two game stretch for you guys to try and put the division away?
AD: “These are a big two weeks, especially with the way our schedule is. We have these two division games right now, so we've got to come out and play our best the next two. These are some big games that can determine a lot. We know that, we're preparing that way.”
Do you see any parallels between you and Joe Flacco? Ever since he came in the league, people doubted him and said what he can’t do, and then he wins a Super Bowl. Do you see any of those parallels with you?
AD: “That's how it is sometimes. Some guys, they like to talk about the good things with them, some guys they like to talk about what they can't do. As for Joe, I'm happy for him, with everybody saying the stuff they have, and for him to go out and do what he did last year. Hopefully I can do the same thing. I feel like ever since I've been here, we've won a lot of games, and hopefully I can continue to do that. Our goal is to get back to the playoffs and be playing our best once we get there. Hopefully I can do that. But, everyone's got an opinion regardless of what you're doing. He's won a Super Bowl and people are still doubting him. You can't worry about all that.”
How different is Baltimore’s defense without Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and some of those other guys?
AD: “There's some things that are a little bit different. Obviously the guys that are out there playing are different. I think there's some things that you see that they've done in the past that they aren't doing as much now, but for the most part they're very similar.”