New Orleans Saints QB Drew BreesWednesday, December 15, 2010On Monday Night Football Ron Jaworski talked about the Ravens getting away from their identity. When it was mentioned I thought about you. Even though this is a new team this year, do you think teams have identities?
"I definitely think teams have identities. A lot of that is developed as the season goes along. For a team like us that last year just kind of found a way to win in whatever way possible as the season went on en route to starting off 13-0 and this year's team kind of similar where you have to fight through that adversity and win some close games, that's breeds confidence and gives you momentum. I think that's part of what helps you establish that identity. I think for us, I think people look at us and say they do a lot of crazy stuff on offense. They do a lot of crazy stuff on defense. They're kind of a trick them type team, finesse, that kind of thing and I'd argue that I'd think our brand of football is probably a lot more physical than people give us credit for."
Does your team have a road identity?
"A road identity?."
You seem to get mentally tough when things are down?
"That's developed over time. That's developed through experience and when I look at our team I feel like we have a lot of experienced guys, guys that have been on great teams whether it's here or in other places, and kind of bring a new element. Everybody plays a role in that."
Has Marques Colston come back to the huddle and said "Throw me the damn ball"? Has he ever come back to you and said I'm open like some receivers are known around the league to do?
What kind of personality does he have?
"Most of the time if I missed him I acknowledge I missed him before he needs to say anything and I think all our receivers know that. At times, maybe my read was taking me to the left side of the field, so obviously I didn't see what happened on the opposite side of the field and all of a sudden Lance Moore comes up to me and says next time if we dial this up again vs. this coverage, vs. this guy, I have him. There's that communication that goes on in a game whether it's on the field, right after the play, before we go in the huddle for the next play or on the sidelines and we look at the pass pictures and we're able to talk through it."
Marques doesn't strike me as the kind of guy that would say anything to you if you missed him?
"He doesn't. If Marques drops a ball, which is rare, I don't need to say anything to him, because I can see that it bothers him. He's a prideful guy and he has that attitude of (where he wants you to) throw it back to me again. I won't drop another one. It's kind of the thing of if I missed him, nothing needs to be said, because I can see it. I know I missed him. If it's one of those things I discussed where it's the backside of a play and I just didn't see it at all because I was working the other side of the field he can say call it again, I have this guy."
Because of what you accomplished last year, did teams take you more seriously earlier this year from the get go?
"I don't know. Obviously we weren't the defending champs last year. Obviously people didn't know how good we were last year, but I think we're far past that. We weren't playing our best football at the start of the season. I look at the games we lost. There was a lot of self-inflicted wounds in those games, albeit the teams we lost to had good game plans and played us very well. It was just our day and wasn't our day. I feel like we've grown a lot since then. At this stage in the game, you know everybody's giving their best, especially when you look at our stretch of games here against all potential playoff teams."
Which other 3-4 defenses do the Ravens play like?
"I guess every 3-4 defense has their subtleties or nuances dependent upon who the coordinator is or who he learned underneath at one point in his career. I don't know. You look at that division and you have three of four 3-4 teams. You have Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Baltimore as the 3-4 teams. We've played a lot of them this year. This team does a good job of mixing their fronts. It's not always a true 3-4. They have the ability to kick it down to different fronts. I won't get real technical with you. They kind of mix and match. The point of that is confusion for the offense with schemes and such, also trying to do what's best for their personnel, dependent on the situation of their personnel."
Fans maybe have seen some games against teams like Miami and Cleveland have something in their mind that you guys have struggled against 3-4 teams. Is there any one element you guys have to improve on that has caught you off guard?
"No, I don't think so. Typically when you look at 3-4 teams, they have very good pass rushers at the outside linebacker position. Think of the 3-4 teams we played this year like the Cowboys and the Steelers, the Browns and some of these other teams. They have some really good outside linebackers that can rush the passer and do some things and bring pressure. I feel like we've handled it pretty well for the most part, but anytime you play an AFC opponent like the Ravens that we haven't played since '06 there's some of the same personnel, but some different personnel. You have to study and just put a little extra time in."
How do you balance what the Texans were able to do to the Ravens on Monday with some other performances of their defense this season?
"That game was 28-7 right after the opening kickoff of the second half. It was very much a two minute mode for Houston trying to come back. I think Baltimore played that pretty conservatively, kind of bend don't break. Houston has a very good offense as well. I'm not looking too much into the fact that Houston was able to put up 300 yards of offense and score 21 points in the second half, because you have to look at the situation and circumstances. Any game, you approach where are our opportunities in the run game? Where are our opportunities in the passing game? Even if you know you're going up against a great defense like you know we're going up against this week, you try to manufacture those plays somehow."
Teams like Baltimore and Pittsburgh have reputation for defense. How much do you value that when you might go up against them that they might be saying you have a great offense? Do you think there are mind games?
"I'm sure there was a mutual respect level when we look at our offense and we look at their defense and on the other side of the ball because their offense has some playmakers and they've been able to have some success this year. I think it's a pretty well-balanced game all around when you look at it; both teams fighting for playoff spots and within their division as well. Every game is that much more important."
What motivated you in 2003 to start your foundation?
"My wife and I have always wanted to start a foundation. As far as why we chose cancer research and caring for cancer patients at the time was because Brittany's aunt had died of cancer when we were both in college. Brittany and I met at Purdue and her aunt was in Chicago, so we'd visit her quite often during that time when we were dating and she eventually succumbed to cancer and so we said this is something we feel really passionate about and we want to be able to help patients with cancer, especially kids. Once we got to New Orleans we really broadened the scope of our foundation with the rebuilding process and efforts and everything else. We've always had a very charitable heart between the two of us and just have wanted to give back what's been given us. We feel like we've been blessed with a lot in our lives and just feel strongly about it."
Some athletes will have a bowling competition and donate to a charity. You've put a lot more thought into it it seems with your crazy race and things like that. Do you almost get competitive things with your foundation, thinking of different things you can use to inspire and raise money?
"Definitely. The fundraising part you have to be creative, especially in an economy that we have right now where it's hard to go out and raise money, but there are a lot of people out there that want to help and give back and a lot of times they just don't know the best way to do it. I think what we try to do obviously is to show that we're a very credible organization that has good leadership and that we really do our due diligence in defining projects and avenues in order to where to direct the funds, where we're making the most impact, but spreading it around to the causes in town, especially in New Orleans. Everybody that wants to help, we try to provide that channel for them"
Can you think of anecdote in the past year, maybe with a young person that maybe gave you personal validity to what you are doing?
"There's been a lot of them. The schools that we've worked with, whether it's Lusher charter school or Samuel Green charter, Carver and a few others, whenever you visit the schools, kids will come up running to you. You see the sparkle in their eyes and they love the fact that you have reached out to them that you care about them. A lot of times, people just need to know that there's somebody out there thinking about them and caring about them."
You mentioned in your book that Cam Cameron was one of the few guys in the organization that believe in you all along. What did he mean to your career?
"He was huge. Cam was huge in my career. I was with him for four years. He was the offensive coordinator while I was in San Diego for those last four years. That was a time in my career where during that stretch I got benched three or four times, they ended up drafting Philip Rivers. Cam was pretty much the one who broke the news to me. My postseason exit meeting with him after the '03 season I went in his office, shut the door and (he said) I'm just telling you they're either going to go out and get a free agent veteran quarterback to come in here or they're going to draft a rookie high to compete with you. Just get ready for that. I feel like he was always very honest with me. He always did things to try to get the best out of me. There was a time or two where we would butt heads, but I think that was all part of the process of him trying to mold me into the type of quarterback he knew I could be, the type of person he knew I could be, leader and I appreciate him for that. I love the man. I think he's a great coach and obviously I had a lot of great years with him."
Have you seen an evolution in the safety position in your time in the league where people used to not want to draft one high or pay them a lot of money? Is there more of an emphasis on using them as weapons?
Yes. Obviously (Darren) Sharper's been around a long time. He's one of those ball hawk-type safeties. You might say Brian Dawkins, he's a similar type of player, albeit I'll say Sharper's more a middle of the field safety. Dawkins can really do it all, definitely a physical presence in the box as well. Then you kind of go to guys like (Troy) Polamalu, guys like Ed Reed, Bob Sanders, guys that are all over the field. Whether they're tackling guys, intercepting the ball or blitzing, or whatever it might be. I think you've seen some guys really take that position to the next level as far as what you want a safety to do. Back in the day maybe it (mentality) was this is our middle of the field safety, this is our in the box safety and whatever. This is the safety that pressures and this one doesn't. Now you have guys that can do it all, so that's why you have to know where these guys are on the field, because they're dangerous."
Is Ray Lewis playing as well as he ever has?
"He's been around a long time and he's played at a high level a long time and he continues to play at a high level. He's so instinctive. You can tell he's played a ton of football. He's seen it all. His ability to play that chess match of being aware of what's going on around him and what's going on with certain things…He's sharp."
New Orleans Saints LB Jonathan VilmaWednesday, December 15, 2010Is this game going to decide who has the best linebacker from the University of Miami?
"It's definitely not going to decide that. You have a hall of famer, future first ballot hall of famer up there in Baltimore, a guy I looked up to since I started playing football. It's great to see a guy like Ray playing like that 15 years in. I'm just striving to be that way. For me, it's just great to see Miami guys out there, guys like Ray Lewis, one of the best to play the game. I'm just excited to go out there and watch him live."
Ed Reed said he set it up for you to meet with Ray when you came out of college? Was he the prototype for a linebacker?
"Definitely. I'll always remember that trip. I went up with Ed. I got to talk to Ray for a couple hours. It was good. I was at his house. He was telling me everything's all in front of you. You can see what you want to see on TV and that stuff but it's about the little things and doing it right, doing it the right way. If you do it that way, the sky's the limit."
Do you feel like there's positive peer pressure within this locker room to be active in the community?
"I don't know about the peer pressure. What I do know is that we create a positive atmosphere where if you are a little shy or afraid of starting your own foundation, wondering what the feedback will be, the locker room here, we encourage it. We want to help out. We want to be with our teammates when they have their charity events. I just did Heath's (Evans). I got sold for like 4000 dollars or something like that."
Was that pretty good?
"No it wasn't. I think Reggie (Bush) got sold for like 20,000 or something. It's Reggie right? No, it's just a great locker room that way where want to help out and encourage."
Did you begin your foundation recently due to the earthquake in Haiti?
"The end result, I don't hope for an end result because I want to keep it going for years and years and years. It was something where being in the playoffs at the time when it happened, it gave me time to sit back and reflect on what happened and what I can do and what way I could make my mark. The biggest thing was that I didn't want it to be short term. I didn't want it to be fly by night, one or two years and be done with it. My goal is long-term."
You want to build a school there?
"Not just one, keep growing from there. One, two, twenty schools, whatever I can do to help."
Do you think New Orleans is a city that can really get behind that given that they went through a major disaster?
"I sure hope so. What I do know is that they can attest to some of the things that are going on in Haiti right now with what went on with Katrina, how everyone tried to chip in early on and then they forgot about New Orleans. It's the same thing that's going on now. Everyone went and donated their money early and they're just forgetting about Haiti kind of. I'm trying to keep that going."
Is there a Miami pride at linebacker?
"No pride. No one wants to win the game as bad as I do. I was telling some of the guys right now, you have a guy that's a seven-year pro against a future hall of famer. There's no competition there. It's just great. I'm excited to watch him live again. I've been watching him on film for the past umpteenth years. It's just great."
Do you subscribe to the theory that good defenses start up the middle?
"Yes, I do believe that. It starts with a solid nose. Then it goes to the back to a strong safety who can make plays on the ball. I think both defenses have that. I think that they have (Haloti) Ngata, who is a tremendous athlete and of course you have Ray and then Ed Reed in the back end. We have Remi (Ayodele) who's ding a great job for us, myself. Then pick your position. Do you want Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins? Darren Sharper's still back there. I think it definitely does start up the middle."
Do you see the two empty gas cans in Roman's locker?
"I didn't see it until now. The worst part is it didn't count and he won't be able to live it down."
Talk about the challenge of facing a running back like Ray Rice?
"Ray Rice is dynamic and he's so good in the running game and passing game as well. I know he's in the top two or three in rushing yards, but he's up there in receiving yards as well. That always poses a big challenge for myself, (Scott) Shanle, Danny Clark, whoever's in the area where you feel like you stop the run, but he takes a checkdown and catches a screen. He can take that the distance as well."
How much development have you seen in Joe Flacco?
"It's hard to say, I haven't seen him early on the past two seasons. I'm only watching these last four or five games. It's hard to say. I can't really say how he's improved from his rookie year to now."