Coordinators' View: The Three Tenors' Greatest Hits
NOTEBOOK: UPSHAW AS PITCHMAN; CELEBS' FAVORITE TEAMS
By Joe Platania
The Ravens are one of the few teams around the league that make their unit coordinators available to the media on a regular basis.
During the regular season, that day is usually Thursday, the middle day of the three-day practice workweek. In order to get everyone in a sort of regular-season flow, the three tenors -- as they have been called -- were brought out Thursday after the team's first indoor practice of training camp.
As usual, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, defensive coordinator Dean Pees and special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg have their own sets of issues, problems and success stories about which they are asked.
For instance, Rosburg's third training-camp kicking battle in four years has so far been a taut affair between incumbent Billy Cundiff and undrafted rookie Justin Tucker.
Tucker, who played at the University of Texas, had Thursday off, and Cundiff will rest on Friday before both kickers display their wares for thousands of fans Saturday afternoon at the M&T Bank Stadium practice.
Cameron's units have had the better of it in training camp -- although, as you will see, he said the battle was more even -- as they work under a microscope that dictates the necessity of same; what with poor health, question marks and a few aging players dotting the defensive depth chart, the Ravens' offense could be their best defense.
As for Pees, he didn't have to stretch his vocal cords that much during Thursday's indoor practice, so his voice didn't end up as raspy afterwards. But his deep, talented cornerback unit took a hit with Jimmy Smith's as-yet-undetailed back injury.
Here's how the three tenors weighed in on their units Thursday:
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR CAM CAMERON
Coach, you stuck it to the defense pretty well there in practice. Does the crispness speak to anything in particular? It’s been only a week of practice.
"It's early. If you look at all of our practices, they've been pretty balanced out. Yesterday, it was a little bit different. I think our guys responded. It's been that way almost through the whole training camp -- one day offense, one day defense, one 20-minute period offense, another 20-minute period [defense]. That's what I think gives us a great opportunity to keep getting better -- the competition we have every day in practice, the way our practices are set up.
"I always have loved the way [head coach] John [Harbaugh] practices and makes the [practices] game-like. Young players can really develop here because you are playing the game; you're not just doing drills all the time. We do the drills. We do the fundamentals. That's our foundation. But, ultimately, it has to transfer into the game with coaches on the side, players on the side. You're out there on an island and, basically, you get the job done or not. We did some good things, but I'd say it's been pretty balanced throughout the training camp."
[Cleveland Browns president] Mike Holmgren was talking about the good job you guys have done developing Joe Flacco. What are some of the special challenges of working with a young quarterback going from the beginning to where he is now?
"I just think the league in general makes it tough on young quarterbacks. And, defenses and defensive coordinators [make it tough on young quarterbacks]. I really marveled last year at how some of the young guys came in and did what they did, because I think in a lot of ways, the college game and the pro game are becoming more and more different.
"I think, first and foremost, credit goes to Joe and the amount of hard work he has put in and always does. He's always wanting to learn. So, you give the credit to him. I think things are just maturing and growing, getting better. He still can keep getting better and better and better, and no one knows it better than him."
When do you start to get a sense for just how good your offense is going to be? Comparing this year to where it was at last year, where does it compare? Is it further ahead than it was last year at this point?
"It still is really early, as you know. First of all, we should be ahead of where we were last year, so that would be the expectation. I'll let everybody else kind of judge that. We have a few new faces, but probably not as many. I would think that if we continue to work the way we are working, have a little luck with injuries, stay healthy, you'll see us get better throughout the course of the season. That's the important thing, because then you have an opportunity then to play your best football in December and January.
"That's probably the next step for us. We've played well, actually, in January at times, but we need to be playing our best in January and December and November. Add those other two months for you guys that are getting ready to quote me on January. (laughter) That's the goal, and that's obviously what we are trying to get done."
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR DEAN PEES
Do you think too much is made of that [Cary Williams-Jimmy Smith cornerback] battle, because you are going to be using nickel a lot, I'm sure, with that kind of talent?
"You guys have watched enough NFL football to know that two corners are not going to get you through a season or even through a game. So, between sub, nickel, dime, all that kind of stuff where you use corners, where you get teams that run three wide … New England, who knows what the hell personnel they might be in. (laughter) So, you are going to use all those guys. They will probably end up with a lot, probably equal snaps, anyhow. Really, in my eyes, everybody is a starter that plays on any unit because you could start a game …
"We have a Raven defense, which is four DBs. We have a sub defense, which is five DBs. We might start the game in five DBs, so one of the outside 'backers is out, well, that guy's a starter -- that fifth DB is actually a starter. He started the game, but if we started in Raven, that doesn't mean the other guy. So, we think of all those guys. … If they are contributing in a package somewhere, they are really a starter on defense. So, all of those guys are or will be a starter at corner, basically."
With Courtney [Upshaw] not being out here for a couple of days, being a rookie and how much it seems like you will have to rely on him, when do you start getting worried that he hasn't been able to be out here?
"I'll start getting worried if it's halfway through the preseason. What we just need to do is get him out there, especially in some preseason games, and have him hit, get hit, and actually play.
"It's one thing to go out and practice. There's different situations here in practice that are just not the same as game-type tempo and game-type situations, and that's why we need to get him out there. And, I'm not too concerned, yet, until if we get down the road and he's not playing any games. Then I will be concerned."
Coach, I know you were coaching the linebackers before being a defensive coordinator, but what kind of relationship did you have with Ed Reed since you've been here, or is that just something that you are just now establishing with him?
"No. I think I have always had a great relationship with Ed Reed. I think too much is made sometimes of position coaches of just doing their position. When we meet as a defense, and we have done that ever since I've been here with coach [Greg] Mattison, with coach [Chuck] Pagano; I know they did it with Rex [Ryan] before that, and we do it now. We did it in New England. I think most places do it. We all meet together.
"So, we have one big room in there that has 40 guys in it with all the coaches. So, everything that we talk out on defense, we talk out. Everybody hears about everybody. If a defensive back is not right, the D-line hears it. If the D-line's not right, the secondary hears it. It's a unit. We may break up after that and go a few minutes to your position meeting. So, when you have a room like that and everybody is together, everybody gets to know everybody pretty well. And, I think everyone has a good working relationship with all positions."
SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR JERRY ROSBURG
Can you just give us an update on the kicking battle, and how do you see that playing out so far?
"Well, it's been all that we'd hoped it would be, because both kickers are kicking well, and the exciting part of it is that every day is different. And we put them in different situations, and I love the way we practice -- like yesterday was overtime, today was move the ball -- and you have so many different scenarios that come up during the course of the season that you can actually practice rather than just lining up and kicking. And both guys have been exposed to that, and we'll continue to do that as we go down the road.
"Preseason games are coming up, so that's always good to kick in our own stadium and in other places, so you change the environment a little bit. And what's going to be fun also [is] to be in our own stadium this Saturday, because we're going to get a lot of kicks down there."
Do you have a measuring system for how you gauge the kicks? Is it more important to make them in these drills, or does it count just as equally when they're practicing on their own?
"We track both, but I've always said this when I'm looking at kickers: It's very much like quarterbacks, in my view. You really find out about them in games. You find out how they handle the situations. You find out how they handle the weather conditions. You find out a lot about a guy's poise in games, and so I'm excited to watch these guys compete in games as well."
Does it seem like you've already had Corey Graham for a while now with his knack for the field already?
"Yeah, that's a very good observation. He's such an experienced veteran, and today is a primary example. The first kickoff repetition that we had during practice was directed at him -- I was trying to beat him, because the whole design of the play was to beat him -- and he didn't fall for it, and he called me out right afterwards.
"So yeah, he's very crafty. He's good to have in the room, too, because he can help a lot of the young players."
JOEY P'S TRIVIA TIME: Today's question:
During their 16 regular seasons of existence, the Ravens have racked up 633 quarterback sacks, an average of nearly 40 per season.
The team passed the 600-sack mark sometime last season. Which Raven got the 600th sack in team history, and against which opponent?
The answer will be revealed at the bottom of Friday's post-practice entry.
ROOKIE PITCHMAN: It shouldn't shock anyone these days to see Washington rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in television ads for Subway restaurants.
After all, not only do NFL rookies want the exposure, they certainly want to earn every dollar they can, if nothing else, to prepare for their post-football lives. With the rookie wage scale cutting into the value of contracts even for first-round picks, any extra income is welcome.
Ravens' top draft pick and probable starting outside linebacker, Courtney Upshaw, is joining that movement, having been named one of the newest endorsers of Gamma Labs, a technology-driven, all-natural sports energy drink.
Gamma aims to enhance the effects of an intense conditioning program, and Upshaw is just one of several players taken high during last year's draft to sign on.
Others include former LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne (drafted by the Dallas Cowboys), Illinois defensive end Whitney Mercilus (Houston Texans), Texas Tech wideout Stephen Hill (New York Jets), Missouri tight end Michael Egnew (Miami Dolphins) and California wideout Marvin Jones (Cincinnati Bengals).
CELEBS' FAVES: Each year at this time, the league releases a list of celebrities from the world of sports and entertainment for the purpose of disclosing the NFL teams for which they cheer loudest.
This year's list is out, and there are three Ravens fans on it that should come as no surprise.
Olympic record-holding swimmer Michael Phelps, Towson Catholic graduate and New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony and actor Josh Charles -- nephew of PressBox publisher/founder Stan Charles and star of CBS' "The Good Wife" -- are all devout Baltimore supporters, as most fans probably know.
Here are a few other pop-culture icons of note and their favorite teams, some of which may surprise and even anger fans of theirs that might live around here.
For example, even though actor George Clooney is currently dating Baltimore native and ex-Ravens cheerleader Stacy Keibler, he is actually listed as a Cincinnati Bengals fan.
A few other preferences that took us by surprise:
Jessica Alba (Oakland Raiders), Brooklyn Decker (Carolina Panthers), Tim Duncan (Chicago Bears), Sean "Diddy" Combs (Pittsburgh Steelers), Snoop Dogg (Pittsburgh Steelers), Tina Fey (Philadelphia Eagles), Gene Hackman (Jacksonville Jaguars), Brad Paisley (Cleveland Browns), Robin Williams (San Francisco 49ers).
Posted Aug. 3, 2012