ANDY DALTON (with Cincinnati media)
What's more nerve-wracking, taking a snap from center or throwing out the first pitch at a Reds game?
AD: "Throwing out that first pitch. Some nerves did hit me out there. You walk out there and everything's wide open. All I saw was A.J. (Green) out there (behind home plate). I just tried to get it over there. I thought I threw a good ball though. Maybe the Reds could pick me up to be a reliever or something (laughs)."
Had you ever done that before?
AD: "I've never thrown out a first pitch. It's definitely a cool thing. You always see it when you go to baseball games. I always thought it would be a cool thing to do. So it was fun. I'm glad we got that opportunity."
Did you consider having A.J. throw it to you for once?
AD: "(Laughs) I think as soon as we got out there he was like, 'I'm catching it, right?' I didn't think there was much thought about it. I was going to be the one who was throwing it."
Where is this offense compared to where it was last year going into the opener?
AD: "We're so prepared. We've got such a good understanding of what we're doing. So we expect to be better than we were last year, just having another year in the offense. We feel like we can do a lot of good things. The players might be a little bit different, but that the guys we have here are very reliable, and hopefully there should be some improvement from where we were last year."
When you watched tape of the Ravens' defense for the first time last year, what were your thoughts?
AD: "You see the athleticism that they have. They've got guys that have been in the league for a long time – Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed. All those guys that I knew I've watched for a while and heard a lot about and finally got to watch them on film. They're a great group, a great defense. You see that. They play really hard, they're really physical. That's why they've been so good for a long time."
How did the actual experience match up to your expectations?
AD: "It was similar. You can see how strong they are in the run game. With the big, physical guys they have up front, they do a really good job. It matched up well. We were close in both the games last year, so we've got to do whatever we can to get over that hump and find ways to win."
Does that reinforce the idea that these games come down to two or three plays?
AD: "That's how it is. Anybody can win any week, it just comes down to a couple of plays. You've got take advantage of the opportunities when you get a chance to make a big play. And we got down early in both games, so we were playing from behind. We've got to find a way to start faster and come out and get some good drives to start the game and get into the flow of things."
You went 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers last season. Is this a chance to break through that and take a big step as a team?
AD: "I think so. For us to play really good teams like that every year, twice a year, and for this team and this offense and everybody to get to where we want to be, we've got to find ways to beat those teams. So, like I said before, we've got to do whatever it takes to find ways to win."
You're opening the season against a division rival on Monday Night Football. What does that mean to you?
AD: "It means a lot. It shows that a lot of people think a lot of this game. We can't put too much pressure into it. Yeah, it's Monday Night Football, but it is just a game. It's the first one of 16, so we've got to go out, we've got to be calm, we've got to be poised, we've got to handle the atmosphere. It's going to be fun. There's a lot of hype behind the game as it should be."
In what ways do you think your receivers are better than last year?
AD: "Just having the understanding of what we're doing. Last year, guys were learning on the fly, where now guys know what we're doing. Like I said before, guys can flip around, be inside, outside, all over the place. That's where this receiving group has improved."
A.J. Green attracted a lot more attention in coverage last season as the year went along. Do you expect more of the same this year?
AD: "Yeah, I think everybody recognizes A.J.'s talent. So there might be times where they try to double-team him and make other guys make plays. But we've got guys that can make those plays. Guys have to take advantage of it when they get their one-on-ones. We've got to complete those balls and make plays."
What kind of difference does Terrell Suggs' absence make?
AD: "Everybody knows what Terrell has done. He was the Defensive Player of the Year last year. Anytime a team loses a guy like that, it is tough for them. They've got guys who will come in and play well. For us it is not worrying about who will be in there, its making plays."
What do you see when you look at their secondary?
AD: "They're good, but we feel like we can match up well with them. The group we have here is very capable of making a lot of big plays, and we're excited about the opportunities we have."
Last year there weren't many other options besides A.J. Green, but do guys Andrew Hawkins and Brandon Tate offer better options with their speed?
AD: "The guys we have, I wouldn't want anyone else. They've come in and worked real hard and done everything they've been asked to do. They've learned on the fly. They have such a good understanding that I'm confident of everything they've done."
Do you feel like it's your crew of receivers out there? With all of these receivers, you are the only QB they have had while in Cincinnati:
AD: "We're so young at the receiver position. It makes it fun and hopefully these are the guys I'll be throwing to for a while."
BenJarvus Green-Ellis played in only a couple of series this preseason. Does that worry you?
AD: "I'm not worried about that. Unfortunately we had the injuries, but they have had time to rest up. Hopefully they will play up. This offense is versatile and able to do a lot of things. The rest is going to help and help us be better prepared for this game."
What other options does Green-Ellis give you?
AD: "I've been saying about a bunch of the guys we have – he's reliable. He's going to be in the right spots. He's going to catch the ball. He knows what he is doing in protection. The things he is going to do can help us, and I'm glad we picked him up in the offseason."
Is reliability the biggest difference in this year's offense?
AD: "I think so. Not only with it being second year, but we have new guys who are going to step in."
How much of an adjustment has it been to get used to a new player at center, Jeff Faine?
AD: "For him, he's come in and done a good job. It's not like learning something new. We all have to be on the same page. We've sat in and watched film to make sure we are on the same page."
How many snaps do you have to take from a center to become comfortable with him?
AD: "It didn't take long. It is finding where your hands need to be and catching the snap. It doesn't take too long."
MARVIN LEWIS (with Cincinnati media)
ML: "Obviously it's a very exciting week of preparation, getting ready to kick off the season, with an opportunity to do it on Monday Night Football and an opportunity to do it against a division team in Baltimore. In looking at the roster, you've got 28 guys that weren't with us here in 2010 – approximately 28 of 53. It's been a complete change of people. So as you go into this game, not all of them are familiar with the series, the division and so forth. But it is an exciting thing and something to really look forward to and get locked in our preparation of what they do, how they do it and how we do what we do. So I'm looking forward to the excitement of it. It's been good thus far."
Do you find yourself trying to educate any of the young players about this rivalry? There's no better expert on this rivalry than you:
ML: "No. I don't worry about the rivalry of things; it's an important game for us. We know it's going to be a physical game – they understand that. We know what it's going to be like. For our offense, when they're on the field, it's going to be loud. We've got to deal with that and take the crowd out of the game."
How difficult is it to find that next tier of excitement, but to do it without getting too excited?
ML: "We have to play poised football. Starting any season, that's an important thing to do and prepare for. How you stay poised is really about knowing inside and out what you're doing and what expectations are, and being able to help the guys around you so everybody fits together and plays well together. That kind of reduces that anxiety."
When you were coaching a young Ray Lewis in 1996, could you have imagined where he would be 17 years later?
ML: "I don't know if I thought he'd be playing this long, but I knew he'd play this well. I was very confident he would play this well. I actually still have a little piece of paper – a comment (about Ray Lewis) that I gave, that somebody doubted. I still have that piece of paper (laughs). But he's had a tremendous career. He's been a tremendous player. I say this every time we go up against him. But the way he has mentored others is probably the most important thing – both on his team and around the league. More than anything, his legacy of that is just tremendous with what he's been able to do."
How different is this defense without Terrell Suggs?
ML: "They're going to be slightly different – this is an all-pro player. But I would say that they've got guys that are trying to fill that void very quickly. Paul Kruger is playing very well, playing in place of Jarret Johnson. He's gotten a chance to play the last couple of years and work his way into the lineup. So they're doing a lot of good things. A good football team is able to get bigger contributions from other players. I think that's what they're looking for."
It looks like they've opened things up a little bit on offense:
ML: "Offensively, they've gone to an up-tempo offense. They have not huddled with their first group in any of their preseason games. That's what they're looking to do – at least they've worked on it thus far in the preseason. Whether or not we see that, we'll see. The most important thing is for us to stay sound and be very relaxed in what we're doing, and to defend and attack their offense in that situation."
How do you describe the running style of Ray Rice?
ML: "Ray Rice has tremendous balance. He has great speed. With his lower center of gravity, he's a great cut-runner. He has ability to run through the arm tackles. When he gets a crack, he's got enough speed to make it a bigger play. If you look at some of the better runners now in the National Football League, they're of that stature and build, with that strong lower body. He's a great receiver of the football. He's going to get the ball out of the backfield, he's going to get the ball on screens, he's going to try and get isolations versus your under-coverage in different situations. There's a lot of different ways they try and get the ball in Ray Rice's hands."
Is Joe Flacco the type of quarterback that will stay in the pocket, or his he now a little more mobile?
ML: "Lately, he's been more of a pocket passer, but we were there for his initial game and he beat us with his feet that day. He has more recently been in the pocket more, but he's not a bad athlete. He certainly can move and throw the football on the move. When he does that, they're going to look for the big play, because they've got some guys that can get down the field."
Rice beat you last year on a couple of big runs in both games:
ML: "59, 51 and 70 (yards)."
How do you prevent that?
ML: "You have to get in your gaps, stay on your feet and make the tackle. That's how you prevent any run from going the distance. The other 35 runs he had were three (yards) or less, but you can't give up those explosive plays like that. That makes for a long day. You're going to have a difficult time overcoming that kind of explosive play. We made quite a few explosive plays in the passing game in the two games, but we put ourselves behind the eight-ball with what they did offensively and the fact that we turned the ball over four times."
It sounds simple:
ML: "It's a very simple thing; you keep the white shirts surrounding the purple or black shirts – whatever they're wearing – and we've got a good chance to be pretty good."
Turnovers have hurt you the last two years in against Baltimore:
ML: "Turnovers have been the key to this series. It's what's important. You can't turn it over. You have to possess the football. It's the recipe of the AFC North. You have to possess the football. It's the recipe of the National Football League. If you have one more turnover than your opponent, right now, you can take that and finish the season at 10-6 since 2000. It's an amazing thing."
Some of the guys have said you've done a study on the Baltimore series?
ML: "I've done a study on all of the series. In our division, it's the key to the division. It's possessing the football. If you maintain the ball you have an opportunity to win the game. We basically split on third downs. We played a little bit better here on third down but turnovers have been the biggest difference in the football game, in my opinion. Explosive plays are important."
Andy Dalton said he thinks the biggest difference with the offense this year is reliability:
ML: "A couple of the turnovers we had last year – he (Dalton) had three interceptions strapped to him, but zero of them were his responsibility. Basically we had some error with the guys. That's part of it, too. That all falls underneath us. We all win, we all lose."
Do you think it's a more reliable offense with more reliable guys?
ML: "We've stated that from the start that we made changes on offense to be more reliable."
Torrey Smith has developed into an explosive threat for their offense:
ML: "He's very explosive. Great vertical speed. He's improved going into his second year now. He's spent a lot of time to be able to do everything as far as being a competent wide receiver. But he gets your attention. They add Jacoby Jones, which gives them another big, strong vertical guy. They've helped their skill position guys by the addition of those guys."
Last year, Baltimore played a lot of two- tight end sets on offense. Do you see them doing that again, or could you see them going more three-wide receiver sets?
ML: "I would imagine we would see a little more three wides, No. 1 just because the tight ends have been dealing with some injury issues. I don't know how healthy they are, but that's their thing. You have to be able to stretch the field a little bit in the National Football League in order to be effective, or else you're into a game all of the time. They have a great runner. There are different ways to put your offense together, but when you have a great runner it helps to be able to do things with the spread guys."
With teams like New England having success playing with multiple tight ends, and last year Baltimore followed suit, is that the trendy new thing for offenses to do?
ML: "They're different. New England is not a big 'running the football' team. Ray Rice ran for 1,300 yards last year. He caught passes for over 700 and something, so it's a whole different dynamic that he would take the place of those kinds of guys in their offense. That's what he is. He's both that and he's the (Tony) Gonzalez, he's the (Rob) Gronkowski of their offense and then you have the outside receivers."
How different are the receivers with Jacoby Jones?
ML: "Jacoby is a talented guy. We've faced him a number of times. He's big, he's fast, he's going to be a vertical guy over the top. It allows more flexibility with their other players. He complements what they do very well."
What made you decide to lift the Twitter ban?
ML: "I know it's a great way to link to our fans, our season ticket holders, and a lot of (the players) have things they're responsible for trying to do for foundations. I think it's the right thing to do, as long as they handle it the correct way and go about our business correctly. Social media is a great link to reach out to the fans, the season ticket holders, both locally and nationally. We were able to come to that conclusion."
Just be responsible and reliable?
ML: "That's right. I'm counting on it."
Who is your Rob Gronkowski or Tony Gonzalez?
ML: "We're in a different offense, so I don't know why we keep trying to compare and try to put our guys in that situation. We have a very good outside receiver, and we have a couple of other developing outside receivers, so we have a different style of offense. We're going to run the football, play-action pass, throw the ball over your heads every chance we get. We're a different style of offense."
A.J. GREEN (with Baltimore media)
On his reaction to Ravens head coach John Harbaugh saying Green is one of the NFL's best receivers:
AG: "It's a good thing, but I just take it with a grain of salt. I've got a long way to go to be mentioned with some of the best, so I've just got to keep working."
On his thoughts on the Ravens secondary from what he sees on film:
AG: "That whole defense has a lot of Hall of Famers. They're probably one of toughest defenses we face, just because they've been in that system so long and everybody knows what they're doing. They really don't have a lot of mental breakdowns, so that's the toughest thing, because they're so solid up there."
On how much he studies opponent tape from the preseason:
AG: "We try to study as much as possible, but in the preseason they really don't show as much. So, we just try to go back to last year and see some of the stuff."
On whether he puts any stock in the Ravens being challenged by other big-time receivers during this past preseason:
AG: "Oh man, it's the preseason. I take note of it, but in the back of my mind, it's still just a preseason game."
On what his expectations are for his second NFL season:
AG: "Just capitalizing on another great season – keep building, using last year as a base and just keep building from that."
On if he feels like he has something to prove against the Ravens:
AG: "I don't feel like I have anything to prove. I am just going out there and playing my game. Whenever the ball is thrown at me, I'm going to try to make the play."
On if he feels having a size advantage against the Ravens favors him:
AG: "I don't know if it favors us, but like I said, they have great players over there. It's going to be a tough battle. It's going to be smash-mouth football. It'll be a tough game, and we have a tough task ahead of us with them."
On Ravens CB Lardarius Webb:
AG: "He is probably one of the best all-around guys, because he plays the nickel, he plays outside, he is a punt returner. He is probably one of the best all-around football players we have in the league. He's tough, so it's going to be a challenge for me going up against somebody of his caliber."
On why Green was able to develop so quickly in his rookie year:
AG: "I think just because I don't listen to all that that it takes you whatever [amount of years to develop]. I feel like if you are willing to work, you're ready to put in the time to be great, who says you can't come out there and have a great season your first year? So, that's what I did."
On if there was a time last year when he thought he was going to have a breakout year the way he did:
AG: "I didn't at all. I just went in there every day and tried to get better each day and just take it game by game, practice by practice, and see what happens."
On if he is getting enough reps with QB Andy Dalton despite Dalton getting banged up in the final preseason game:
AG: "Oh yeah. He's definitely fine. We'll be ready on Monday night."
On what he has to do to avoid a "sophomore slump":
AG: "I don't believe in all that stuff. Just like you said about taking a receiver three years [to develop], I don't believe in all that sophomore slump and all that other stuff. No, I don't look into that stuff."
On if Green feels a lot of expectations:
AG: "Not really. Like I said, I don't buy into all that expectation – all that hype stuff. I've had a target on my back since I came out of high school, and that's one thing I didn't worry about – what other people had expectations. I just take the expectation, I mean the expectation to myself, and go out there and play my game and see what happens."
On his impressions of Ravens CB Jimmy Smith:
AG: "Oh man, he's a great athlete. He's a big and long corner; he likes to get his hands on me. So, I'm going to have to work. I'm going to have to release and see what happens."
On if he feels defensive coordinators will game-plan different because of his performance last year:
AG: "Yeah, most likely. But if you want to be that good receiver, you have to be able to move around to different spots and don't let them key in on you on just one spot on the field."
On if he saw safeties shading to his side last year:
AG: "Oh yeah, definitely. Last year we didn't have the offseason, so they really couldn't move around. But this year, I have a whole grasp of the offense, so they can actually move me around and don't let defense key in on me at one spot on the field."
On being able to go through offseason workouts:
AG: "Oh man, it's been great. Like I said, it gave us time to sit down and actually watch some of the film from last year and slow things down and actually work on things that I need to get better at."
On the significance of beating Baltimore:
AG: "Oh man, it would be great. Last year we lost to Baltimore and the Steelers. If we want to get over that hump, we have to beat those two [teams] at least once."
On if the Bengals look at Baltimore as a team to beat:
AG: "Oh yeah, definitely. They are probably one of the best teams in our division. So, if we want to be one of the best, we have to beat the best."
On what the Bengals expect to do as an encore this year:
AG: "Just want try to make the playoffs again and make a run at this."
MARVIN LEWIS (with Baltimore media)
On what is in store for an encore after last season:
ML: "I think what we would want to have in store for an encore is an opportunity to get back and win the division, earn ourselves an opportunity to be in the playoffs at the end, and go forward and eventually end up in New Orleans and become world champions."
On how much he uses what happened last year as a building block for this year:
ML: "I think what we've used [from] last year is that we weren't good enough. We tried to take steps this offseason to improve our football team, to get better. We've added, I think it's 18 new players that weren't here last year, and hopefully, as we go through the season we'll feel like we've improved in the areas we felt like we needed to."
On how important it is to win on Monday after struggling against playoff teams last season:
ML: "Well, it's an important game. And Buffalo was undefeated, and we beat them, and they were the cat's meow. So, there [are] some teams ... it is what it is. You have to win, you have to win against good teams, and until you do everybody can say and do what they want."
On how QB Joe Flacco looks now and if he has seen any tape on him this preseason:
ML: "Yeah, I've actually seen a few shots of Joe Flacco this preseason. (laughing) He seems to be getting the ball in and out of his hand. They've been in their spread, their no-huddle-type offense, I think, with their first group the entire preseason. [He's] done a good job of managing that and seems to be getting them in the place they want to get into."
On his impressions of the no-huddle:
ML: "Well, I think it's a great way to change tempo. It's all about… You have to possess the football, make first-downs and so forth. So, that's what I feel."
On whether the Ravens offense was similar when he coached there:
ML: "We ran no-huddle offense here in Cincinnati for five, six years. The players that they have now weren't in Baltimore when I was there. So, I think we won a Super Bowl, went to the playoffs two of three years I was there with Brian [Billick], and did a nice job offensively. [We] did what it took to win football games, and I think that's what they are trying to do right now, is put their players in the best position they feel like is going to make them as successful as they can be."
On stopping RB Ray Rice:
ML: "Ray Rice is a very good football player. He's a great runner, he's a great receiver of the ball, and you have to do a great job of staying on your feet and staying in the pursuit angles and tackling him when you get the opportunities."
On his impressions of CB Lardarius Webb:
ML: "He's been a good, developing young player. He's done a good job competing. He really competes with the receivers. He has fine speed and he really can ... he hits the open-and-change, open-and-close on receivers. He's done a really nice job. He fits well into the schemes that they use. He seems to understand them very good, and has an opportunity to take advantage of that if you leave the ball inside or outside and he's in the leverage. He's going to make a good play on the ball."
On his impression of WR A.J. Green:
ML: "A.J.'s a very good player [and] he's got a very good ability. He's a very, very hard worker, and he continues to develop each and every day. He's got a great degree of confidence and has a chance to be a very, very good player over his career."
On his thoughts about going up against G Bobbie Williams opposed to having him on his team:
ML: "Bobbie has been a great, obviously, a great work horse here as one of the leaders, one of the lieutenants. [I'm] happy he's been able to continue to play and nobody has anything but great things to say about Bobbie."
On how not having OLB Terrell Suggs in the game changes their offensive planning:
ML: "Well, Terrell is an excellent football player, and he's a great pass-rusher [and] he's a physical player in the run game. He makes the unscripted plays quite a bit. But, we have to attack their defense, and that's what the key is no matter who's in there. They are going to have other guys step up and be ready to play. That's what good teams do, and that's the way to go about it."
On WR A.J. Green having a "sophomore slump":
On what makes T Andrew Whitworth effective as a pass blocker:
ML: "Andrew, I think, is a good technician of the game. He really understands football and leverage. He's a guy with quite a bit of length. He's a good athlete. He's a guy that can go out and shoot below 80 in golf. He's going to be your first-pick on the basketball floor. There [are] a lot of things he can do. He's a good athlete."
On what LB Vontaze Burfict adds to their roster and his impressions of him:
ML: "He's just done everything that you ask a linebacker to do. He's been a very good player on special teams. He's understood responsibilities. He's gotten his job done, and he's done a nice job on defense for us."
On if he has settled on a No. 2 receiver, and how he thinks whoever is lined up there can make up for the players who left last year:
ML: "We chose not to re-sign those guys. They didn't leave. We felt like we really had an opportunity to better ourselves at wide receiver. [I] feel really good about our guys."