There's been a lot of hype about Baltimore's defense. What have you seen on film?
* *"They've been playing well. They're playing with a lot of confidence. When their first unit was in, they played really well this preseason. We've got to prepare for what they're doing. It's always a tough game when we play them. It always feels like it's coming down to the end. Both teams are preparing for the season the right way, and for us, we're going to do what we can to win this one."
What's that key to getting a win over them?
"One thing is you can't turn the ball over. Turnovers usually decide the game. Other than that, you've got to hit big plays on them. That's one thing we've been able to do in some of the games we've won. When we needed to make a play, we made it, and it allowed us to score in the fourth quarter to win."
Usually you play on the road to begin the season. Is there any advantage playing at home to begin the season?
* *"It's obviously nice for us. We haven't had a home game to start the year (during my time here), so I'll let you know after this one. Obviously it's nice for us to open up at home in the normal surroundings. We're going to have the fans behind us, and we have that home field advantage. I definitely think it's a great way to start the season, as we haven't done it before. I'm looking forward to this one."
Do you wonder what the atmosphere is going to be like?
* *"Regardless of who we've played (in previous seasons), that first game has been a sellout crowd. Fans are into it. I expect us to have that advantage this time, just because we're at home and it being the 50th season, with all the buzz around what's going on. People are just excited that football is back. I expect this city and all the fans will be into it and getting loud."
How different does Baltimore's defense look?
"Obviously we've been watching them. They've plugged in some new guys — guys that have experience and have played a lot of NFL games. They just have a lot more experience in their back end."
Does it look like the same defense to you?
* *"You can go back and watch a ton of tape, because we've played them so much, but you just need to be prepared for all of it. The stuff they have done this preseason, and the stuff they have done in years past."
Who has filled the leadership role since Andrew Whitworth left?
* *"I wouldn't say it's been one guy that has filled that role; I feel like it's been multiple guys. That's one thing Marvin (Lewis) has touched on. We've had several guys step up to fill these roles. A.J. (Green) has done a great job, with the way he goes about handling himself leading this offense and this group. Clint Boling has done another good job, as a guy who has played in a lot of games. It's fun to see our draft class, the 2011 draft class, be some of the guys who have taken over this team and this offense. I wouldn't say there has been one guy who has filled that role, but we've had several guys work their way into this leadership position."
Is it crazy to think of, from 2011 to now, how much you guys have matured and are now more experienced?
* *"When you're younger, you want some of your core positions to be a little bit older. We're younger at the receiver position, but they've got a guy like A.J. (Green) to look up to, and Brandon LaFell — guys who have done it a long time and have done it the right way. Same thing with offensive, like Clint (Boling) and some of the guys who have been here for a while, they've got guys to look up to. It's crazy that this is our next phase of our career, my career. I was talking with someone earlier, and some of these years are kind of running into each other as we were talking about which years things happened. It's just that progression of your playing career."
It seems like when players are becoming more seasoned, some say the mental preparation of getting ready for a season is more intense than the physical preparation. Do you feel the same way?
* *"With football, it's both. From the quarterback position, it's a little different physically than it is with every other position. But it's both sides of it. Mentally, with just playing the game and having played six years — now going into my seventh — you've seen a lot, and a lot of that you can pull from. Physically, you just need to make sure in you're in the best shape, and that it can last for the whole season to protect yourself and prevent as many injuries as possible."
Joe Flacco hasn't practiced much, and just returned to practice a few days ago. How tough is that to do?
* *"You want as much practice time as you can. But for a guy like him who has played a ton and understands what he needs to do, it makes that transition easier when not practicing. But you want as much time in practice as you can get."
There was a game in 2014 against Cleveland where you didn't have your best outing. How did Hue Jackson help you through those types of games as a young quarterback?
* *"That next game can't come quick enough. At that point, you've got to do whatever you can to make sure you're going to be playing your best football that next week. You've got to put that week behind you, and put that game behind you. I feel like I did that, because we won that next week against the Saints, and I thought I played pretty well."
How does Hue Jackson help develop young quarterbacks through games like those?
"For him, he tries to instill confidence in you, and he wants you to be at your best. He tries to pump you up as much as he can, and he lets you know that's not the normal way you usually play and that you're going to get (better) at it next week. I was thankful for Hue during his time here. He was great at that."
In that instance, you had a low passer rating one week, and then the next week had one of the highest passer ratings. Did you have the mentality of not letting one bad game turn into two?
* *"That's how you have to play this position. You never know what's going to happen. You want to play well every week. If it doesn't happen, you've got to bounce back. Same thing from series to series. If you have a bad play or give up an interception, you've got to bounce back. It's the part of the resilience at playing quarterback."
* *"It's obviously exciting to be here now and getting ready to open. It's exciting to be at this point and open up the season, and obviously to do it at home with the 50th anniversary of the team. It'll be a big day for us on Sunday. Our guys have worked hard to get to this point, and now it's time to roll it out there. Let's get going."
Baltimore has their usual group of players, but is the preparation different because of all of their injuries?
"You have to go into the game as always. It's the opening game of the season. You have to defend the looks, the concepts, the offense, and then conversely on the other side of the ball. That's part of it. We have to reduce the angst and go play."
Is there a challenge with a young team in teaching the schemes and concepts before the regular season?
* *As you said, we have to be aware. These guys will be made very aware of players and what position they're in. They've got to communicate well together. That's the No. 1 thing. We have to put plans in place to be able to do that."
A lot of your young guys have come from big college programs and are used to playing in big atmospheres. Do you think that reduces their nervousness prior to the regular season?
* *"They had an opportunity to be out there this preseason. We put them out there, we put them in the situations, and we got them in the games in the first quarter right away, knowing where we would be (with having a young roster). This is opening day, opening weekend. It's an exciting time, but we're prepared for that. With our guys, we've been talking about it, preparing for it. This is how it's going to look. This is how it's going to unfold. Sound. See. Smell. It's all going to be like this. Now let's go do it."
You've said in the past that you're always a 'homecoming opponent' for other teams. But now you get to host a home opener, and it'll also be the first one for most of your roster. Does that type of stuff matter?
"I don't think I've ever used those words (laughs). Not since Idaho State maybe (laughs). But it's great (to open at home). As you said, with Andy (Dalton) and A.J. (Green), they've never opened up at home. For that matter, the group of Carlos (Dunlap) and Geno (Atkins) have never opened up at home, from that (2010) draft class. It is what it is now. We only have the two guys that were here as rookies in 2009. And Pat (Sims). So it's (four) guys — Andre (Smith), (Kevin) Huber, Pat (Sims) and Mike Johnson."
Is it nice to have a familiar opponent like the Ravens for the opener?
* *"Ironically, we are playing the teams we ended with last year. But, we know they're a good football team. They added some weapons offensively with (Danny) Woodhead. They added (Jeremy Maclin) to go along with (Mike) Wallace at receiver from Kansas City. (Maclin) is a proven player. He's been a very productive player throughout his career, since he came out of Missouri. You know what you've got there. And on defense, last year No. 99 (Matthew) Judon came on and played so well for them. They went into the draft and added a couple of other guys. They added the corner in (Brandon) Carr and the safety (Tony Jefferson). They're a very strong football team that's put together well. They're familiar, but they have new players as well."
What did you think of the first team offensive line in the preseason?
* *"They did what we expected them to do. They did a nice job. Each week, you have to continue to play together and continue to play."