"It's obviously a great opening to the season for us to have to go to play Baltimore, go to their place, a division game on the road. Our guys have to be well-prepared and ready to hit on all cylinders right from the start. We're going into play at a place that's loud, and has a great crowd all of the time and obviously a good football team. We're going to have to have a great week of preparation and then go in and execute our plan in all three phases. We know they're well put together in all three phases -- offense, defense and special teams. It's a big game for us."
How many years has it been since you've gone into a season not thinking you have the talent to compete?
"Twelve. I've never gone into a season thinking we couldn't compete. I think as coaches, we go in every year, and we wonder, and every year we believe we do. We have both sides of it every single year. I don't think we ever change. The thing that happens is, you go out there and you play. That's what we're going to go do. We're going to go play. It's not a one-game season, plus or minus. It's a 16-game season. We've got a long way to go here. Regardless of the outcome of your opening game, you've still got a lot of football ahead and you've got to take it just as that. You've got to understand it as that."
What do you like best about this year's version?
"The fact that we've answered the bell. I wasn't sure how we would answer the bell physically, and I was pleased. This is going to be a physical game from the start, so we're going to have to be ready to go."
Do you have any concerns about Andre Smith coming out of the gate?
"I never have any concerns (smiles), but I don't know if Andre will be ready to come out of the gate. Concerns really don't matter, because nobody gives me anything for them, so we'll know where Andre is when we get to Sunday."
How do you prepare Russell Bodine for this opponent and that environment?
"Number one, it's not on Russell. That's the first part of it. Everybody has to do their part, and Russell has a part in it, and everyone else has a part in it. We've been preparing for this for a bit. It's only 11 guys out there. They're not going to move any different places. That's the way they are."
How much have you as head coach taken on differently with two new coordinators? Has your role changed?
"My role has changed, but for the better. It's been fun. But in Hue (offensive coordinator Hue Jackson), I have somebody who is very experienced and knows exactly how he wants to do it. I just have to make sure that we stay in the same parameters. The same thing really goes for Paul (defensive coordinator Paul Guenther). It's been really good that way. Both are looking for feedback, they're looking for encouragement and reinforcement of things. That's good to have. I've had that kind of relationship and rapport with the coordinators, which is good. And really the same thing with Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons).
"I am involved with all three phases, involved in the planning of all three phases all of the time, in the selection of the personnel, of who is going to be doing what and why we're doing what with which guy. That's important for me. It enables me to really push the player into his opportunity, and to know that I'm aware of what his opportunities are going to be within the plan. And encourage him to take advantage of it, and to be prepared to take advantage of opportunity, because I think every player wants to have opportunity, and for me to encourage it is good."
Are you more hands-on than you've been?
"I don't know if I'm doing more or less, but I always have been. Organizationally we're doing a good job, and the coordinators are making that part easy because they're both guys who want to be ahead of the time, ahead of schedule in the organization and have things planned out. Part of what you learn right away as a coordinator is fitting what you want to do within the scope and the mass blueprint of the head coach, and fitting it all together."
When you're at 12 years on the job, how do you keep it from getting stale?
"I don't think there's anything stale to it. There's been nothing stale through this summer or this spring. We've got new players. We've got guys that are young and emerging, and it's been fun, exciting. You want to go see how we're going to go, what we're going to do and how we're going to compete, how we're going to win. We're at a good spot. I looked, and of the 53 guys, something like 41 of them came here as draft picks. So that puts 12 of them from somewhere else. But they have an average of three years here. They're our guys. They are guys that we've grown to do it our way, which means they're going to be tough, they're going to be physical, and now it's my job to get us to play smart. That's going to be key."
Is it fair to say that Hue and Paul are a big part of bringing newness?
"They've done a great job with it, yes. They really have. Right from the start. When you get a chance to inherit what both guys inherited, the cupboards weren't bare. They're fortunate that way."
If there was going to be a drawback with two new coordinators, how would the layman know?
"We're going into what's important now, as opposed to preseason, but what we didn't have in the summertime was a lot of mental breakdowns. We didn't have foolish penalties. We didn't have pre-snap things and things that look chaotic. I'm pleased about that. The fact that our players continue to respond and play as hard as they do, that's good, and the fact that it's trickled down into the young guys. Those are things that are important. Everybody always wants to take a shot, but we have to go prove ourselves, no question about it."
Wallace Gilberry was asked about the Bengals not having won in Baltimore since 2009, and he said it was irrelevant. Do you agree?
"I do. It doesn't really matter. There's few people left here from 2009, and every time you go it's a new game. It really doesn't matter, we have to go play good football. Whatever your record was, you don't get any points for it this year. We get no points for being 8-0 here in the regular season. You start new every time. If you don't believe that, look at society. Look at these guys we're dealing with. We have to start new every day. That's part of it, and we can never overlook that from these guys. and I think if you do, then you get fooled."
What is unique about coaching in Baltimore and playing in Baltimore?
"Obviously I've been there from the ashes. They've forgotten the ashes. They've let it go. The people that come to the game on Sunday think their team is invincible, and that's a great attitude to have and they carry that into the stadium."
What makes Ozzie Newsome so good?
"He watches tape. He doesn't listen to opinion of others. He watches tape and listens to the opinion of his people that are close to him. They do it by evaluation, they don't do it by hearsay. Their moves are based on the big picture. They're not necessarily always based on the exact moment, but they're based on the big picture.
"One of Ozzie's favorite things to say is that the move that you don't make might be best move you've ever made. So he's going to make the move that they think is important at the time. If they want a player, they're going to go get a player, but they're not going to let anything persuade him into a player he doesn't want. And he has a blueprint of what that guy looks like and how he carries himself."
Has your blueprint been the key to your success here?
* * "I learned a lot. I was fortunate to coach two of the places that I did for so long in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, because the foundation of things is what it is. Those are stable foundations all the time and they're meant that way, so I was able to learn a great deal from that. I know it's been beneficial.
"I was allowed to be involved with evaluation of players all the way through being the linebacker coach in Pittsburgh with Bill (Cowher) and Tom Donohoe, and (Tom) Modrak (who was director of college scouting at the time), to going there in Baltimore with Ozzie to look at all the guys on defense, and decide and to hear why and what and to help make decisions. We were to that point there to where we want to add young guys and if we plucked a veteran off, he was going to have certain traits."
Do you still need the shovel, metaphorically?
"Well the shovel's still important now. It's going to get important come Sunday in Baltimore. We're going to have to dig, man, just put our head down and go to work. Yeah, you still need it. Nothing we've had around here do we want to give away, because we've worked hard to earn it."
You spent a few years when you got here establishing a culture, professionalism, focus and attention to detail. Do you still need to dwell on that?
"The point I was making to the question about Wallace's answer, when we think we don't need to, it's going to bite us in the butt. We have to, every day, really reinforce things all the time. It should be inbred. When you look at some of these guys who have been here for a bit, their families have grown up, they've gotten married, they've got families that have matured and growing kids and so forth. That's a lot of it, so when the young guys come in they see that, and they have get right in tow and in step, that's a good thing.
"The attention to detail is so, so very important. We can't ever let it waver. How we do things and taking good notes all the time, those things are important. We have to keep pushing the envelope with coaching all the time. We have to keep coaching our guys and spending time with our guys. That's been an important part of the coordinators, to come in and grab hold right away of everybody, and not think it's going to be status quo because you were here with me. No, no, no no. You've got to pull your weight, and you've got to earn your right again and prove you can make plays. Wallace Gilberry is a good example of that. He saw some light there. Wallace is not wanting to let anybody get in that first huddle in front of him, and that's a good thing. He saw what happened, and how things went, and the graduation of a Michael Johnson, and so forth. So hopefully guys see that."
How would you describe Hue's coaching style?
"He is very detailed and demanding, and yet he can put his arm around the guy, and close the door, and explain to him why, and make him understand him why he's being as the guys say, 'hard on him' that day, that moment. It's a good quality to have. You have to have both. These guys are here as their profession, and they don't get to do it for very long. They have to understand we have their best interest at heart, to help them be the best player they can be. That's our goal, and we're going to push hard at that for every single one of them."
Give us a capsule of Paul Guenther's style?
"I think Paul has done an excellent job of reaching out to each one of the defensive players individually - the guys that were returning guys – and has really impressed upon them what his expectations for each of them were individually, as well as collectively. I think they responded. Paul's unique. Paul worked in every phase of football around here, so he's basically been grown from the ground up with some of these guys, and he's worked with them through special teams, and he's worked with them initially just with me, and he's worked with them through defense and now as the coordinator. He's been involved really from the ground up with a lot of these guys."
What does it take to beat Baltimore on the road?
* *"It's a tough task, especially because they've got a good atmosphere there, and it's tough when you're playing a good team as well. So you've got to be sharp. I think turnovers have been key in those games. Staying ahead, staying the course. We've played a lot of close games there, we just haven't been able to come out on top. So it's all the little things that get you to win on the road, that's our focus."
Talk about setting the tone for the season, opening with a division opponent...
"It's big. The way the schedule is, they start us off right off the bat with a division opponent. So it does set the tone. It really shows the expectations of what we have here. We've got to come out and play. There's going to be a lot of emotion going into the game. You can't get too high going into the first one, but you've got to stay the course of the game because there's highs and lows that go on. It's a big game for us because it's the first one."
Have you ever had a place like Baltimore that just always gave you trouble?
"Not really. We won a lot of games in college (Laughs). So I understand, playing for a while now, that playing on the road is a lot more difficult, and you've got to be sharp because the communication is big with the crowd noise and everything. You've got to make sure everybody's on the same page. It's little things that hurt you, especially when you're on the road. So you've got to be sharp."
How can you help compensate for your rookie center?
* "*Working together, I think the line has done a good job with getting him comfortable. I'm helping him out with different things. I told him at the end of the day, you're still playing the game of football. It's still the game you've been playing for a long time. Yeah, you're playing against guys that are bigger, stronger, faster, but at the end of the day, trust yourself and you've got a lot of guys around you that have been playing for a while. I think we'll be good."
Are you taking more responsibility with making calls?"
* *"Yeah, there's different things. Coming in early in the week and watching film, making sure we're good on some of the protection calls, or in the run game and things we'll be doing. Just trying to make him as comfortable as possible."
How different will the offense under Hue Jackson look to the Ravens?
"I don't know. The same guys are going to be running out there, only a different guy calling it. I don't know how different it's going to be. We'll find out on Sunday."
Are you intrigued to see how he's going to call a game?
* *"Yeah, we've got this plan down of what we're going to be doing, so I've got a good idea of what's going to be called at certain times. He hasn't called a full game yet for us, but I've got a good taste of what it's going to be like in the preseason. There's a lot of good chances to make big plays, and get our guys the ball and see what they can do with it. That's what makes this offense fun."
How important is it to have had two offensive coordinators who were former quarterbacks?
* *"It's big. Understanding the game -- there's little things that go on where if you haven't played the game, you might not understand it. So having a guy that understands 'Okay, you felt this guy here, maybe you couldn't get your normal motion into a certain thing.' There's little things that get involved in playing the position, and to have a coordinator that's done it before definitely helps."
What has been the biggest adjustment with Hue?
* *"I think just getting used to Hue's style. It's been fun to see him come into his own and kind of implement that here. Guys have really bought in. It's good to be challenged and get to have everybody wanting to play together. I think that's the biggest thing you've got to do, play together as a team not just offensively, but for all three phases of the game. And that's been a big emphasis for us. And we feel it's going to help us out in the long run."
How would you describe Hue's personality?
* *"He's more in-your-face and expects a lot out of you. And if you're not doing it right, he's going to make sure that you know you're not doing it right. It's good. He pushes you. He wants your best and that's exactly what you want from the top down."
How does his personality contrast from that of Jay Gruden?
* *"It's different. There's not one that's better than the other. Everybody's personality is different. So there's things we did with Jay that we may not be doing with Hue, and there's things that we're doing with Hue that we didn't do with Jay. So you just have to get used to the style of how he's addressing things and how he wants things done. There were certain ways with Jay, and there's a certain way with Hue."
How are you different from your first opener as a rookie?
* *"I've grown a lot and played in a lot of games since then. Just having an understanding of everything. I'm a completely different player than I was then. It's not new to me. I'm really comfortable where I am."
Do you still get jitters?
* *"Yeah, you get some butterflies before games. But that just comes with playing the game."
Are turnovers the biggest thing Hue has stressed?
* *"That's the number one thing that you need to do, not only as a quarterback but as an offense, take care of the ball. We've talked about this before: If you win the turnover battle, you've got a really high percentage to win the game. So that's been a big emphasis. I've taken that to heart. So everybody's got to understand that we can't turn the ball over. The ball is the most precious thing on the field. We've got to keep it in our possession as much as we can."
Do you have concerns with so many offensive guys being limited in preseason?
* *"No. Guys will be ready to go. Preseason is the time to build depth and get guys healthy, and that's what we've done. Obviously not having Marvin (Jones), he's going to be out for a little while. But other guys have stepped up and played well. So I don't think it's going to be anything where since guys haven't played at different times because of injury, I don't think it's going to affect us."
Have you noticed any changes in Marvin Lewis, with the two new coordinators?
* *"Not really, because he's comfortable and used to those guys. Obviously each coordinator is bringing his own style to different things. But I don't feel like Marvin's had to feel like he's got to take on more because we have two new coordinators. It just comes with them being around for a while and him understanding them."