Conference call transcripts from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco with the Baltimore media:
On the Ravens/Bengals rivalry: "It's a division football game, and they're a team in the division. They're picked to win the division, so we'll come play on Sunday. So, that makes it every time we play a division game, I think, a little bit of a rivalry. Obviously, I've coached in the places in the division, so it makes it a little different. As long as that [number] 52 [Ray Lewis] lines up as middle linebacker, I have an association there."
On the Ravens being picked to win the division this year bothering the Bengals who are the reigning division champs:"No, I don't think our guys even know that. But, people tell me. You guys give these players too much credit."
On Ray Lewis becoming a team leader from the beginning when he arrived in Baltimore: "Immediately, the very first day. From the very first time that he walked through that door, the people with him walked in behind him. When he walked into the huddle, the second practice that we had, he was the leader of the football team. And, the way he did things and how he did it, as fast as he played, he just became the leader of the football team. He just had an innate sense to be out front. He wasn't afraid to be out front, and I think that was very evident from him from the very first day. As I said, I can remember him walking in front of those windows at the old place in Owings Mills and the people coming in the door with him walking behind him. And I just thought that was interesting. But, that's what I remember of him. That's how I knew him prior to the draft – when I went and introduced myself to him back in Indianapolis at the Combine. So, it hasn't shocked me."
On Ray's performance against the Jets reminding him of vintage Ray Lewis play: "I thought he played his tail off, as I expect him to do all the time. I thought he did all the other things, too. He empowers the guys around him to be better, and he's always done that. He did that early on, too, as a young player. I used to challenge him all the time, [and say,] 'Don't go to the Super Bowl and hang out and have fun; you go to learn. You go to the Pro Bowl, and you go to learn. You go suck some knowledge out of some of those older guys.' And he did that. And he brought it back to Owings Mills, and he put it in play, and he's never lowered that standard."
On his perception of Chad Ochocinco's and Ray Lewis' approach to football as elite players: "Well, that's the perception [that Chad takes it less seriously], because knucklehead has to have fun. He didn't get the attention [like Ray]; he didn't go to the University of Miami. He didn't have that attention growing up. He kind of dances to a different drummer a little bit that way. But as far as the game and practice and everything, he's as intense in practice as Ray is. And I think that's what helped him play well. He practices [hard]. I have to pull him out of practices, I have to pull him out of plays against the defense because he wants to take every rep in practice. So, that part they kind of share that. I think Chad really looks to Ray for guidance, and I think that's a good thing. Ray has helped him do some of his sideways acting a lot and to keep him mindful of what's important."
On if the media focuses too much of Ochocinco's antics and not his hard work as a player: "He never says anything that's going to get anybody to swing at him, because he might have to defend himself, and he can't do that. Everything he's going to be is somewhat the challenge of playing the game. He likes to play against good people. I think that excites him. We've gone to preseason games, and they have a good corner and they don't play that guy, and all of a sudden he looks like somebody kicked him in the teeth because his dauber's down because he wants to compete against the best all the time. That's what makes Chad tick. He wants to compete against the best."
On Ochocinco's prediction that the Bengals will win the Super Bowl this year: "As I told you earlier, you guys listen to too much of the hot air that comes out of his mouth. I don't let that bother me. Luckily, yesterday he didn't say anything, because he was in the dentist chair all day, so that was a good thing."
On whether the Ravens played the style of defense he coached while in Baltimore in their game on Monday night against the Jets: "They played extremely well. I think when you play well against the run [and] you don't allow big plays in the passing game, you are going to be very, very successful. They applied pressure to the quarterback all day, and that's kind of the things that we build everything on. As I said, Ray's never let the standard drop, and it's very important. On the other side of the ball, they've got some guys over there, too."
On his thoughts on facing WR T. J. Houshmandzadeh in a division rival's uniform: "I'm glad for T.J. T.J. had a lot to do with the success of things here and the way people feel about things here. He's obviously well-loved here. He's a great young man. He's one of the guys who also helped the knucklehead receiver I got here do better. And he's helped lead the way for him. So, that's a good thing for T.J. I told him sometimes the situations you get into aren't always what you think they are. We all have to go into those situations before we learn. We've had a lot of good [communication]. Not as many phone calls, but texting and stuff. He's always on my mind; I know we're always on his mind, and I appreciate that. He's a good guy. I love his family, and I'm glad he's in a good spot. He's in a good place, and he'll make a difference there."
On explaining the need for Chad Ochocinco to get an IV and leave the game early last week: "It's nothing to explain. It's something he does, unfortunately, that he has to do too often. But, it is what it is. He does it and it keeps him from cramping up later in the game. He's always done that. If you want to go ask somebody about it, go ask T.J."
On if he was surprised to see Houshmandzadeh sign with Baltimore: "No, I wasn't actually. No, I wasn't. Nope, not at all."
On whether last week's game against the Patriots helps him prepare to play against the Ravens offense: "I don't know. The way we played last week, we need a lot of help. We have to have a good week of practice. Obviously, it's a big game for us on Sunday. The Ravens offense did a fine job. We know Ray Rice is a great, great football player. He's a great runner. He's a great receiver of the football. We need to do a great job around him. They put some guys in place – Todd [Heap], Anquan [Boldin], Derrick [Mason], T.J., all of them – they're making tested catches. They're good route runners and so forth. They're good football players. They played the whole game, 110% of it, and that's key. So, we've got to do a good job around those guys."
On if he's seen the recent Tweets of Chad Ochocinco: "I did not. I'll have it here later today. His is gibberish – like his commentary on the game Monday night. It is hilarious – some of this stuff. The only thing I tell him is just be careful. Realize it's not just adults reading this, sometimes it's young kids reading this. So, you don't curse around here; don't curse acting tough in your Twittering trying to act like you're tough, because you're not. Just watch your language that way and represent yourself the way you want to represent yourself. You have built an amazing reputation, and don't take anything away from it."
On whether he envisioned using and enjoying Twitter as much as he has when it first came to being: "Yeah, I guess it's been cool."
On what he likes most about Twitter: "I want to talk about the football game, man, not Twitter."
On how he feels about this year's Ravens after beating them twice last year: "It's going to be like it is every year; it's going to be smash-mouth football, you know, a two-chinstrap game, as coach [Marvin] Lewis will call it. And their defense is great. I mean, the defense has always been great, and us as a team, we're going to have to earn every yard we get on offense. We have to minimize our mistakes, and hopefully we can pull off a win. I'm really excited – and I've talked to you guys before – the only game that I really, really, really get excited for is when we play the Ravens, because you have to account for every single person on the field. And that just gets me going. I don't know what it is about playing them, man, I just get really excited."
On how much it hurts the Ravens defense to play without S Ed Reed: "I mean, you have to understand that Ed is probably one of the best safeties to put on a uniform, period, in NFL history. Along with him and [the Steelers' Troy] Polamalu, they set themselves apart from the rest of the NFL. I could care less what anybody else says. That's how I feel about them. And to not have Ed out there is a big blow, because those are shoes that you just cannot fill. You can't fill those shoes. And I'm sure whoever is taking Ed's place right now is a great backup, but he has to understand Ed is special, and a player like that comes around very, very, very so often."
On what it is about the Ravens that gets him more excited than other rivalry games, like Cleveland and Pittsburgh: "I don't know, man. It's just something about playing the Ravens. It's like an extra 'umph.' I don't know what it is. I don't know."
On whether he has anything special planned if he scores a touchdown on Sunday: "No. No, I'm just going to play ball."
On whether there's a little extra emotion now that WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh is with the Ravens: "No, no. I'm just ready to go play ball."
On whether he's looking forward to seeing Houshmandzadeh again: "Yeah, man, it's been a long time since I've actually been able to see 'Housh' in person. I am looking forward to catching up with him – looking forward to talking to some of those guys in pregame, especially Ray [Lewis]. You all know Ray and I's relationship is extremely close. He's one of those who's kept me grounded throughout my NFL career and has taught me a lot of things about this game, on and off the field. So, I'm looking forward to catching up with him and exchanging a few words before I knock his head off during the game."
On whether Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis or the NFL has gotten on his case about his use of Twitter: "I just said I didn't want to talk about Twitter."
On whether they said anything after he Tweeted to Ravens RB Willis McGahee and FB Le'Ron McClain: "I want to talk about football, not Twitter. I just said that."
On why he won't talk about Twitter after using it frequently: "I want to talk about football. There's a game Sunday."
On whether he believes that LB Ray Lewis has lost a step: "Hell no. You watching the same film I'm watching? No."
On whether he remembers when Lewis "took his head off" last year: "Yeah, of course I remember. I'm looking forward to taking his off this year." (laughter)
On whether he is sticking to his prediction of the Bengals going to the Super Bowl:"I don't remember [saying that]. I don't recall."
On whether he wants to hear the recording of him saying that: "I don't want to hear the tape. But I do have a game Sunday."
On whether he thinks the Bengals can exploit the Ravens secondary: "I don't know. I don't know. We'll have to see what happens. They have some great players out there in Fabian Washington and… Who's on the other side? What's his name? (Reporter interjects: "Chris Carr.") Yeah, Chris Carr is good. He's really, really freaking quick, man. He's really good. So, we'll see what happens."
On whether he plans on sticking around for the entire first half: "I get an IV every halftime for the past 10 years. It's going to be no different."
On whether he feels like the Bengals will be defending their title as AFC North champions on Sunday: "Yeah, in a sense. This is a big game for us. This is a divisional game. It's extremely important. You want to win early, so we have to do what we need to do to be able to maximize our opportunities on offense, and we'll see what happens."
On if receiving an IV at halftime gives him a boost: "I cramp up. It's always been a problem of mine since my entire high school, NFL career."
On what he sees from the Ravens defense on film: "Their defense, man – flying all over the ball. It seems like they have more than 11 people out there on the field on film. That damn Terrell Suggs is a beast, man. He's all over the place. Secondary… They play very solid. Ray's all over the place. Haloti Ngata… [Shoot, he] might be damn near the best D-tackle in the game right now based off of what I'm seeing. I haven't had much time to watch film because it's only Week 2, but they look damn good on film."
On how his chemistry is with WR Terrell Owens:"What do you mean? What are you talking about?"
On how he and Owens performed Week 1 and how things are working between them: "It's working fine."
On if the talk between he and the Ravens is all in good fun? "You know every player on the Ravens and I are friends. Why are you all even seeing into that? You already know that."
On LB Ray Lewis getting upset at the Jets last week for talking: "He and I are friends. You already know that."
On if he pokes fun out of love: "No. I don't. I'm poking out of fear. (laughter) Golly."
On how important it is for the Bengals to get off to a fast start: "We have to. We have to. Again, this is a divisional game. It's extremely important. We have to do all we can to maximize our opportunities again throughout this game and come away with a win. That's it. It's no secret to it."
RAVENS WEDNESDAY TRANSCRIPTSJOHN HARBAUGH
Opening statement:"OK. Obviously, you guys have already been having this conversation. We play the Bengals this week, and preparation starts today."
On his thoughts on the Bengals cornerbacks: "Yeah, I think they're really good. They have [Leon] Hall and [Jonathan] Joseph and then [Adam] 'Pacman' Jones being in the mix there. They've just got a bunch of guys that can cover."
On whether he would appreciate if there were no Twitter or talk leading up to the games: "What are you talking about? I'd appreciate if there was no Twitter? I think it depends what gets said. To me, it depends how your players handle it, how they express themselves. If they do it in a classy way that is uplifting, then I appreciate it. I think our guys did that."
On how he feels about getting CB Prince Miller back on the team and what his chances are to contribute as a returner: "Yeah, there's a chance of that. Obviously, that's part of our idea with [signing him]. Whether he can do that this week or not, I don't know. Probably wouldn't give it to you anyway. But obviously, that's something that he does. I'm sure [the Bengals will] prepare for him being back there. He's a rookie; they'll feel like if he is back there, they can take the ball away from him. That's what I like about 'Zibby' [Tom Zbikowski]: He's going to be secure with the ball. But he's got to go north and south instead of going sideways. One of those two guys will be back there. The bottom line is we catch the ball first and run that way, and we'll be fine." (laughter)
On if having a short week hampers preparation for the next game: "It does throw you off a little bit. Sleep-wise, we haven't had a lot of that. But we knew that. It wasn't like it caught us by surprise, and all of a sudden they moved the game up a day. We knew we had a five-and-a-half-day window. We had a lot of time going into it. We know the Bengals, we've been preparing for them all along. We had to add one more [piece of] information that we had in the game into this preparation and then just tie everything together as quick as we could. A lot of that work had already been done."
On whether he was surprised at the way the Bengals played against New England on Sunday: "Very surprised – obviously, impressed with the Patriots. But the Bengals will get back to being the Bengals. They'll get back to what they did last year. They're the defending division champions. They earned it last year. They swept the division. They handed it to us twice in convincing fashion, and that's the team we expect to see on Sunday."
On TE Ed Dickson's decision to play in the game while his child was being born: "'Family always comes first' is a general rule. But also, you balance family with your career and your profession and the opportunity to do things for your family. This was also his first opportunity to play in the NFL. It was Monday night, and he had prepared for it. His players were… His teammates and coaches and really everybody, the fans, everybody was counting on him to play in the game. But only the person can make that decision. You can't tell him what to do. We all shared our advice – the ones of us who've had kids – but in the end, he had to make his own choice. But it became kind of irrelevant, because the baby came so fast. They baby was born a couple hours before the game, and he couldn't get back there fast enough anyway. What would he have done if it would've been more delayed? I don't know. I think he was going to play. I think he decided to go ahead and play. He was… It was tough for him."
On whether he has had to make a decision like that: "Just with practice. I missed a practice one time, but that was easy. But not with a game. I only had one."
On the impact of Bengals DE Antwan Odom playing in the game: "Is that the word? Is he going to be in this game? Darn. I still had my hopes up for that. (laughter) He had a bunch of sacks early last year, then he got hurt. He's a premiere pass rusher – got to account for him. [We've] got to know where he is at all times."
On whether the addition of WR Terrell Owens makes it easier for WR Chad Ochocinco to make plays because defenses have to plan to cover both of them: "Yeah, it's always a big part of it. I just think that you look at their front, they've got weapons all the way across. They've done a great job of putting that together. They've got [WR Jordan] Shipley in there now. They've got [WR Andre] Caldwell who really hurt us last year. Obviously, Jermaine Gresham is a very talented guy – high pick. We liked him a lot. We might have drafted him if he was still sitting there. Turned out pretty good for us later with the other two tight ends, but he's a great player. The other two tight ends are both good blockers and adequate receivers. They can catch the ball. You can't sleep on those guys. [Cedric] Benson coming out of the backfield is a good player. They got Shipley in the backfield. They put tight ends in the backfield. I just think you've got to be able to cover all those guys, and that's what makes them so dangerous. Then you've got Carson Palmer – premiere quarterback. [He] has proven it – has really proven it against the Ravens. How many times has he played well against the Ravens in the last eight years or so? We've got our hands full with that offense."
On the impact of WR Anquan Boldin: "He's a… I guess that says it all right there – the fact that he's capable of making big plays. A lot was made of the downfield threat last week, and we understood that. Yeah, you'd love to have a burner, but those guys are playmakers. I put T.J. [Houshmandzadeh] in the same category, put [Derrick] Mason in the same category. I think… Put Todd Heap in the category. Todd Heap obviously is not a burner, yet he makes the play downfield in a seam route that really flips the field position and gives us a chance to win the game at the end. If you've got guys that can go out and catch the ball, I think they can make plays downfield. And Anquan, I'm hopeful, because I always felt like he's been – and same about T.J. and 'Mase' – these are guys that have really been great players, but have never gotten their due probably, these premiere guys. So maybe we'll change that this year."
On how much WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh was able to play on Monday night:"I think he had the full offense for what we were asking him to do as kind of that three-wide-receiver package. It'll be interesting to see how [offensive coordinator Cam Cameron] uses him in some of the other packages now and how he expands that role. Those guys become interchangeable, I think. They can all play pretty much all the spots, so I think there's a lot of creative opportunity there."
On how rookie NT Terrence Cody is progressing with his injury: "Seems to be getting better. Will he play? I don't know. I don't think he'll practice today, but he's close to practicing. It'll be day-by-day."
On how he would respond to a situation where a player left the field before the end of a half: "You know, I'm not going to get into that. Everybody handles their team… You just handle the situations as they come up. These guys are… These are professional football players, so there's a balance. Yeah, you have discipline, and they've obviously got that, but there are things that come up with guys and you just have to respect that, too. You just deal with it as it comes, and it kind of depends where the player's coming from and what he's all about."
On whether the decision to make CB Lardarius Webb inactive against the Jets was weather-related or because he wasn't ready to play: "Not weather-related at all. Physically, he's very well far along. Is he quite there yet? Was he quite there yet at the game? I don't know. I don't think he felt quite ready like he was. So we'll just have to see how it goes this week. It's a balancing act between where the knee is at structurally – which it's in really good shape – and where he's at mentally."
On what he has seen from WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh and how much he can appreciate his confidence: "I mean, just from afar watching him… We played against him a couple times, him being in Seattle. I mean he's a good receiver. I think his numbers speak for themselves, the numbers that he put up in Cincinnati. [He] also had a good year last year in Seattle. I think he's a real good receiver, and I think he adds something to this offense."
On what makes LB Ray Lewis such a good leader: "Honestly, Ray is one of a kind. Out of all the people that I've seen in this league come and go, he's the one guy, the one constant that no matter who you talk to around the league, they would love to play alongside of him. He's a guy that you want to line up with, a guy that you watch from afar and you're just amazed at what he brings to the table, his intensity. For me, just being here this short period, just seeing how he prepares, how he goes about the game of football in general, it's just unbelievable."
On if playing with Lewis is exactly what he expected or even better: "Even better. Just being around the guy, it's contagious the way he works, the way he goes about it, the intensity that he brings and whatever he does. I think it's real contagious."
On how his first game as a Raven felt: "There was no better stage to open up than on Monday night at the Jets. I think it was everything that I expected. I think we would have, as an offense, liked to have a better performance, but wins are hard to come by in this league, so we'll definitely take it."
On if there were any instances Monday with QB Joe Flacco where something intuitively clicked from their summer work: "Yeah, I think so, but there were a lot of times where he threw the ball and it was just a trust factor. And I think that's something that's real important between receivers and quarterbacks. And I think that had a lot to do with us being here working this summer."
On whether he feels the Cincinnati defense can be exploited: "Well, the thing is, whenever you play a division opponent, the game is always going to be tough, because you know each other so well. You play each other twice a year. And for us, they're the division champs from a year ago, so we're looking at it as we want to dethrone them. We definitely don't want to go 0-2 against them this year. We have our goals set, and we want to win the division. The only way that we can do that is to beat them, and it would be a nice start for us to beat them at their place."
On how tough it is to convert on third downs the way they did Monday night: "That is tough to do, but in order to sustain drives, that's something that you have to do. It was a big emphasis for us, and it will be the entire season. We want to keep our defense off the field as much as possible, get them time to rest, and like you said, the only way we can do that is by converting third downs, no matter what the situation is."
On whether he has an opinion about Bengals WR Chad Ochocinco's antics: "I like it, actually. I know Chad personally. He just does it to have fun. That's who he is. That's his personality. I don't think he tries to show anybody up or anything like that. He just loves to entertain, so I don't have a problem with it."
On his thoughts of the Bengals' stable of cornerbacks: "Yeah, they're going to do a good job. They played well against us last year, but we're going to have confidence in our guys to go in there and make some plays and get after them a little bit. But, we're going to respect them and attack them accordingly."
On how tough it is having a short week to prepare, especially coming off the mentally and physically challenging game with the Jets: "I don't know. You can't really think about it. You've just got to keep your head down and go after it. It definitely makes it a little bit tougher, but like I said, we don't really think about that. It's our job to go out there and play the game, and do our best to win it."
On how much progress WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh has made and how in sync he was Monday night: "I thought he did a great job [on Monday]. Obviously, he made a few big plays for us. But like I said, the biggest thing for us was to get him lined up, get him running the right routes, and I think everything else from there was going to take care of itself. And I think he did a great job for us."
On whether Houshmandzadeh will be even better this week with another week of work and playing against a familiar team in the Bengals: "Yeah, I'm sure he is. We're going to do nothing but improve on offense week to week. And yeah, he's going to be a big part of that. So, he's going to improve this week. I'm sure he's going to become more comfortable, and we're going to become a little more fluent with each other, and it should help us."
On how much the opposing team's defense dictates what they can do offensively: "It depends what kind of coverages they're going to run. Are they going to run a lot of man? Are they going to sit in a zone? Sometimes, when teams sit in a deep zone, it can take away some of the downfield stuff. We'll see. Our job is to attack the defense enough that we've got to put them in some situations that they want to attack us, and maybe we can hit them over the top. But, that all [remains to be seen]. You've got to play it out on Sunday, and we'll be ready for everything."
On how he's feeling physically after the Jets game: "It was a lot of fun. It was a great game. It was a good, old-fashioned, physical football game. And I think we're all probably a little bit sore, but that's the name of the game when you play pro football. We're just trying to get ourselves healthy and back in shape for Sunday."
On how he feels after the hit he sustained on the first offensive play from scrimmage: "I feel good. We're all a little sore, like I said. I'm a little sore in my upper body and my neck, but I feel good. My legs feel good and my arm feels great. So, I'm ready to go."
On whether it hurts to watch that first play again on film: "No, it happened. It hurts to see that I fumbled the ball. I don't really care too much about the hit, but it hurts to see me fumbling and them recovering. But other than that, I think we did a great job moving on and getting after them the rest of the game."
On whether it's a point of pride to be able to take a hit like that, especially after seeing some other starting quarterbacks go down to injury this past weekend: "A lot of it is just freak [injury]. It depends a lot on how you land. Those [other quarterbacks] can't prevent getting their head driven in, their shoulder driven in. The turf can be a pretty big enemy sometimes, and it all depends on how awkwardly you land, and I think I was pretty fortunate to get driven in pretty flat and not have any of my limbs underneath me when it happened. But, you're going to get hit, and you've got to get up and keep standing in there. And I think that's what we needed to do as an offense on Monday night."
On whether there is a feeling of respect for the Bengals after being swept by them last season: "We definitely have respect for everybody in our division, and we know what they're capable of. They have a good offense, they have a good defense, and we're going to be ready for a lot when we go in and play them. And they're going to be ready for us, so we're going to have to bring our 'A' game. But like I said, we're going to feel confident about what we're doing. I've said that from the very beginning. And we're going to try to just stay focused on what we're doing and not let anybody get in the way of us."
On how important these division games are this early in the season: "Yeah, they're huge, especially going on the road. If we can go on the road here and get some wins against division opponents, it's going to be huge for us later in the season. These are good teams, and we're going to have to play good, tough games and come out on the other side pretty good. If we can do that, I think we're going to set ourselves up for a pretty good season."
On whether the Bengals played the same defense in both games last season or whether they changed things up: "I'm not sure. I think they came after us probably a little bit in the second game. And I think the first game was a game that we felt like we should have come out of there with [the win], and the second game, when I look back on it, I feel like they beat us up a little bit and they deserved to win that game. So, we've got to go in there, we've got to come with our 'A' game, and we're going to have something to show."
On what he makes of all the chatter going back and forth on Twitter, and whether it matters when the game starts: "No, not at all. Once the game gets going, you're just thinking about each play and completing the pass [or] running the ball. It's all fun. These guys are all… If we see each other out, besides on the football field, we're going to have fun and have a laugh at each other. I think it's all fun and it hypes up the game and it makes it fun for all the fans. But other than that, we're going to go out there and play our game on Sunday and so are they."
On whether the Twitter chatter is a good thing: "Oh, it's definitely a good thing. Like I said, I'm not a part of it, but it's a great thing. I love to see it. If I was a fan, then I would want to see some of this stuff going on during the week just to kind of pump up the game and get yourself ready for it."
On what happened on the interception he threw at New York on Monday: "[Antonio] Cromartie made a good play. He fell off, and picked me off."
On whether everybody was where they were supposed to be on that play: "Yeah, I think so. There was a little bit of a crowd, and like I said, they did a good job of making a play, and our job from there was just to tackle him and get him out of bounds. And our defense did a great job of getting the ball back."
On what it means personally and professionally to go back to Cincinnati: "I don't know what it means yet. I'm sure it'll be fun. They're a good team. Obviously, it will be fun playing against guys I used to practice with. The corners were young when I was there, and they were getting better every day. Now, in my opinion, those two are two of the top 10 corners in the league, period. I don't know if they both will be able to stay there, as good as they play, as much money as they're going to command. As of now, they're really good in my book."
On whether he thought he would finish his career in Cincinnati:"I don't know if I thought that, but I always thought I'd play on two or three teams my whole career. Now I don't know what's going to happen. It's been a shock somewhat the last few weeks. I don't know if I thought I would finish my career in Cincy because I saw guys like Willie [Anderson] come here, and that's when it kind of opened my eyes like, 'Wow.' I thought Willie would finish his career in Cincinnati because he was so good and never got any credit, and then we started to win and it was towards the end of his career. So, when he left and came here, I didn't really think that I would finish my career there, no."
On whether he considered returning to Cincinnati after being released by Seattle: "No, no, [I] never really talked to anybody. Marvin [Lewis] texted me just basically the standard 'keep your head up,' which it was already up. No, not really. You know, they had T.O. [Terrell Owens] and Chad [Ochocinco]. I didn't think all three of us would be a good fit."
On how it will feel being on the opposite side of things at Paul Brown Stadium: "It'll be different. [I'm] kind of eager to see how the locker room looks, see if it's nice or whatever. It'll be different for sure. It'll be different. I don't know how I'm going to feel. Emotions just kind of come to you however they may. You know you can't really control them. It'll be very different, to say the least."
On his memories of playing in Cincinnati: "The memories were… For me personally, not playing initially, being hurt a lot, Marvin coming there and giving me a chance to play, really, that was basically it. I think had I been on another team I probably would have been released and I'd be at home right now doing lord knows what because of my injury situation. Marvin stuck by me when I was hurt. The next year, I got a chance to play and I played fairly well. So, that personally, is what I remember. And then team-wise, the reputation of the Bengals, the stigma around them nationally that basically when I was there we sucked, and we got better and we were a good team, good offensively. We were going to make it fun. We were going to make it TV-friendly, regardless if we won or lost. It was always TV-friendly because we were putting up points."
On whether his departure was amicable: "I would say… I don't know, maybe not because I wanted to stay. Initially, I did and people were always telling me like, 'Wow, you want to stay? You need to get up out of here.' But I don't really like change a lot, and I wanted to stay just because I felt comfortable there. I would say it wasn't because I wanted to stay and I didn't like the way they approached things, but thinking back on it and having been through the situation, they were just doing what any other team would do. And I didn't approach it like that, so there you go."
On whether it bothered him when Cincy won the division last year and he was on another team: "No, no, no. It didn't really bother me because it was over with. At the time, I didn't really sit there initially and say, 'Wow, I made a bad decision.' I think it was over time. When they were winning, I didn't… Once Carson [Palmer] came [back] – my last year Carson didn't play – so I knew when Carson came back the next year they were going to do well, because [Mike] Zimmer had the defense playing well. We just didn't do much offensively my last year. It was just… I think it was gradually over time. I told my wife and different people that I wanted to stay, and different people told me I needed to go. It wasn't that. I was happy they won. I wanted to see the guys do well. I might have had certain feelings about certain people, but nothing with the guys on the team."
On whether there was a moment where he thought it would be best for him to leave: "I don't know. I don't know. I mean I wanted to stay, but I think the way they went about it initially put it in my mind that I don't need to stay. You know you want to do something, but you know it's not the best thing for you. That's what I thought at the time, that, 'Yeah, I want to stay, but it's not the best thing for you.' [It was] kind of like [if] you have a woman and you really like her, but she doesn't really like you, and you don't know when to leave her alone. (laughter) You know? Something like that."
On whether he was pleased with the amount of playing time he received Monday and if he expects more going forward: "I don't know. I wouldn't say I expect more. I want more, so however that plays out. Monday was fun. It was fun. It was kind of a whirlwind. When I was studying the playbook, I was like, 'It's no way I'm going to play,' because it was like Spanish, like Rosetta Stone. I was just learning. It was tough, and as the week progressed on I started to kind of get a grasp of it. Even in the game though, I was kind of stuck in the middle like, 'OK, where do I [go]? OK, I go over here.' So things weren't really clicking naturally, but I hope to play more. I wouldn't say I think I would. I hope to play more, but we'll see what happens."
On whether he has gotten the playbook down yet: "No, no, no. It's so many words and so much verbiage that goes into one play, and I'm the type of guy that I like to know what each word means instead of just worrying about what I need to worry about. I like to know what the protection is and certain calls, which I don't know why I'm like that. Maybe it would make it easier if I wasn't, but I like to know what each word means, and so, that probably makes it a little harder for me to understand the offense."
On how he looks back on his time in Cincinnati: "I look back at it as a positive experience, because that's where I got started. That's basically where the foundation started for me in the NFL, and had it not been for Cincinnati, I wouldn't be here. Like I said, I think a lot of teams would have given up on me considering how my career went early on, and they didn't. So you have to look at it as a positive."
On his relationship with Bengals president Mike Brown: "I thought me and Mike were cool, to be honest with you. You know, I don't know what it is now. Mike is really quiet, and from the time I got to Cincinnati, me and Mr. Brown, we always talked. And guys on the team that had been there for years were like, 'Bro, I've never talked to Mike Brown.' But he talked to me, and I actually would go out with his wife to lunch sometimes, so I thought we were real cool, to be honest with you. Yeah."
On the difference between the guys in the Cincinnati and Baltimore locker rooms: "I would say it's somewhat similar. Guys just like to have fun. They're loud. Things are how I like it. It's just fun. Guys have fun, you talk trash about people, you joke with people, but when it's time to get to work, you get to work. I would say it's very similar, because you have guys who are very passionate about the game, but when it's time to work, it's time to work."
On how he feels the Cincinnati crowd will react to him: "Man, I don't know. I don't know, man. [I] expect the worst, hope for the best. I don't know either way if it will bother me. I don't know. I started at the bottom, so maybe they have a little more apathy towards me because I was a guy that started at the bottom. Maybe they can relate towards me because I was always supposed to… Every year I'd read the newspaper – I'm one of the guys that does read the newspaper and the Internet. I was always supposed to get cut every year, so maybe they feel like I was a guy that always had to earn his keep."
On whether there is any part of him that wants to say "I told you so": "I think they did want me back as much as they would like. I just… I think I would say my mind was kind of clouded. You know, it wasn't where it should have been, taking the situation in for what it was. I had fun in Cincinnati, I really did. People talk about the Bengals, but I had fun. I had a lot of fun there. I'm still cool with a lot of the dudes. And the city… I liked the city because of the way the people were. I enjoyed the people in Cincinnati, I really did. I had fun there."
On how he would rate his new receivers group on Monday night: "I think we did well. I thought 'Q' [Anquan Boldin] played really well. It's tough when you're going against a defense like the Jets. They're really good. We got a lot of pass interference calls, but I think a lot of it had to do with it being the first game and Monday night, and you're going against a rookie, who was a first-round pick, you're going against [Antonio] Cromartie, who was in his first game there. It was tough for both sides. I think both side pressed a little bit. When you're going against a defense like that, considering Rex's [Ryan] history here, you knew it would be that type of game."
On how well the Cincinnati corners know him and how he expects that to affect Sunday's game: "I don't know how well they know me. I would like to think I played a role in getting those guys better. If they'll be honest, they'll admit that. It'll be fun. It doesn't matter how well they know me or I know them. They've still got to cover me, and I've still got to beat them, period. If the play is called, I expect to get open, and I'm sure they expect me not to, so it'll be fun. They know the attitude and energy that I'm going to play with, and I know some of their temperaments as well. So, I expect it to be fun."
Finally, here is Houshmandzadeh's conference call with the Cincinnati media:
Q: How excited are you coming back here on Sunday?A: You know what's funny, it's going to be fun just going back there playing but I think had it been last year it would have been so much more exciting for me because of the fact that I was just a year removed. It's exciting because the Bengals are good. Period. You're going against J-Joe, who I think is one of the top 6-7 corners in the league and you're going against Leon who is one of the top 10 corners in the league and you're going against Pacman who can be one of the top corners in the league once he plays football.
Q: The fact you've gone against J-Joe and Leon, does that give you a little bit of an edge?A: It probably gives us all an edge. They kind of familiar with me but when I was going against them they're a lot better now. I've always thought J-Joe was one of the best corners in the league and he'll attest to that. I've always told him that and I'll talk to him to this day. It will be fun. I like J-Joe and the attitude and temperament he brings to the game. You can't (call) him out so to speak. You're not going to punk him. And Leon he's just solid. They say he's a coach's dream.
Q: How have you seen them improve?A: It's just so much the experience they play with now. They've played against the best, they go against the best in practice every day and that helps within itself. That was the big thing when I was there. They were going against me and Chad. They come in with talent but then you go against good players so obviously it elevates your game. Just the experience they got, the snaps they got and now they got a hell of a coach in Zim. Zim turned those guys around and made them believe they were the best and now you can see it when they play.
Q: Did the New England performance shock you?A: I watched the game. It did shock me because I had worked out with Wes and Tom and they were kind of excited for that game and I told Wes 'I don't know if you can get off against those boys because they're going to play.' He did just that and got off. It was the first game of the season. Look, they lost the first game of the season last year and you see how it turned out. It's just one game.
Q: Second guessing not being here now?A: Not anymore. When I left the Bengals I wanted to stay and I said that initially. I let a lot of things get in the way of what should have been the real focus. That it is a business and they're going to run it like a business and I should have approached it like a business and when you let other things interfere. I just didn't think it through as thoroughly as I should have. I tell people now if you have a chance to stay with your team and the offers are anywhere close, stay. Because they'll appreciate you more than other teams. I was in a situation in Seattle had Jim Mora been there, we were in a situation where we were losing and regardless of what happened with Pete I did regret what I did but it was too late to go back.
Q: Wonder what the reception is going to be like here?A: I don't know. I haven't really thought about it – expect the worst, hope for the best. I don't know what it's going to be maybe a little different because I had to start at the bottom and work my way up into the lineup. It's weird because when I was in Cincinnati I was a great guy and a leader of the team and then I went to Seattle and I was bad for a team. It's just funny how things change in one year.
Q: How difficult was the situation in Seattle?A: It wasn't difficult because I knew something was going on. Nobody was ever up front with me. I knew it. I told people within the organization that I knew who I could talk to that I knew something was going on. It's funny when you know it and you're playing great in practice and no one can cover you and you know what's going on. It wasn't a shock or a surprise. Well, it was one or the other, it wasn't both. Because I thought with the money that they owed me that they wouldn't do that. It didn't really catch me off guard.
Q: Why Baltimore?A: I think out of all the teams Baltimore was the team that gave me a legit shot at winning. A shot at playing on a good team with a good quarterback. You've got to go with a team who can throw that ball. Carson spoiled me a little bit.
Q: Surprised seeing Carson gets ripped nationally?A: They're stupid. People that know football know that Carson can play. Carson is the real deal. You don't know what you have until it's gone and I experienced that. I know firsthand.
Q: What was it like working out with him in July and then seeing TO enter the picture?A: Carson and I have worked out for years. I thought TO came out and he looked good. The first couple days he looked a little rusty and you could see that and then the more days he worked out he got better and better. We were just out there grinding, working hard and running a lot of routes and you could see thoughts in his mind because we would be done and him and Carson would stay out there and run a couple more routes. He was kind of planning ahead, so to speak.
Q: What's it like being in the same locker room with Ray Lewis?A: It's fun, it's a learning experience. You see guys on TV and this and that. He's kind of similar to Chad, not as – now don't get me wrong when I say this – he's not really loud in the locker room. He doesn't say a lot in the locker room. That's how Chad was to me when we got there. People talk to him. He always has a DVD with him watching the team we're playing. Everytime I see him he has it in his hands. And people wonder how he reacts and diagnoses plays so fast because he's studying it so much.
Q: What kind of game do you expect on Sunday?A: I think it will be physical. That is how Marvin prides his teams on being physical. Zim has brought that attitude even more. Zim is the biggest reason why the Bengals are consistently good now. You know what you're getting in day out with him. Zim is one of those guys when you see him you're like 'oh man, he's an asshole' but he's so cool. But he's going to demand the best out of you because he knows you can give it. I think that's why. They'll be good as long as they have Carson and Chad and you can protect and with Zim calling the plays they'll be alright.
Q: How were you able to get that many PI's and holds against the Jets?A: When you get open either they're going to let you catch it or they're going to hold you. You all know how I believe in myself. I'm going to get open. I wish they would have let me catch the ball I need those yards.
Q: Hair still the same?A: Trimmed it a little bit. Coming with age, it might be disappearing a little bit. I think it's about the same.
Q: No combovers?A: Of course not. There's too much technology for that.
Q: What's it like being in this receiving crew?A: It's fine with me . If you're a competitor, you're going to push each other and learn from each other. As much as people would never say this, I'm not one that's scared to say this. I learned from everybody I've played with whether they made the team or not. You can always watch somebody and learn from them. If you're smart, you would do that. I learned things from Chad. I'm sure he's learned things from me. Whether he'll admit it or not. I learned things from Peter Warrick. You learn things from people whether you admit or not. When you play with good receivers, you pick up things and if you like it and you can do it and add it to your game and it helps, that's fine. It's good because I think we have something really special like we had in Cincinnati with me, Chad and Chris (Henry). If we can get this thing the right way.
Q: How has it been with Flacco?A: Flacco is kind of cool. He reminds me of a young Carson a little bit. Real quiet, to himself, doesn't say much and then when he does you didn't realize he has a little sense of humor. Big arm like Carson. Almost similar build. Might be a tad bit taller than Carson. A little leaner. But man, when I first got here I couldn't believe some of the balls he was throwing. I was like, 'Oh, that's going to get intercepted. Oh, nope. Got that through there.' He throws the ball really, really well.
Q: Any Ravens-Bengals game stand out?A: Here (in Baltimore) when we were losing by (18 points) in the fourth quarter (in 2004). Me and Chad had great games. And then the Monday night game (2007 season opener at PBS), it was a big game. I like playing teams that think they're going to intimidate you. I love that because I'm not going to be intimidated by nobody. So when you would play the Baltimores and the Pittsburghs when I was in Cincinnati I loved it because they thought they were going to intimidate you. That wasn't happening with me, so I always looked forward to playing those guys because of the defense, because of the attitude they played with on defense. I like that. Just like I said, you're not going to (intimidate) J.Joe and you're not going to (intimidate) me.
Q: One thing Bob Bratkowski has been able to do is protect Carson vs. Baltimore and Pittsburgh, which isn't easy.A: Yeah, Brat does a good job of calling plays. Obviously, I know from playing Baltimore. They give everybody fits, but when they went against Cincinnati, we would put up points against them and move the ball well. They ran the ball last year, won both games. Chad will remind you of that. That's one thing I will say about Cincinnati and that you learn when you go to another team. Man, you think the coaches are this and that, but they're not as bad as you thought they were. They're actually pretty good.
Q: Some of the guys said you were a good guy in the room. If you were tough on anybody, it was the coaches. Your teammates were fine with you:A: When I got to Cincinnati, my attitude was I'm the best receiver on the team from the day I got here. I think Marvin appreciated the fact that the chances of me making the team were slim and none, but I put the attitude out that I was the best. It had nothing to do with me. Guys on the team would say, 'Please T.J. can you talk to Marvin about this?' because they're scared to go to Marvin half the time. I can take the stuff from Marvin. 'What am I doing and what do I want?' I'll deal with that. Guys would go ask me and it never had anything to do with me. I think those guys just saw that. Going there to Seattle, I don't know what happened. I was a good guy (in Cincinnati) then all of a sudden they painted me as a bad guy, of which I have no idea why. I still talk to teammates in Cincinnati constantly.
Q: They say that you're not afraid to give your opinion and you're not afraid to speak out and sometime you stepped on some toes:A: Yeah, but whether it's wrong or right, it has to do with the team. And the team is the reason why you win or lose games. It's never really always about what is good for T.J. Now, when it comes to playing football, do I want the ball? Yeah, of course I do. And think that's what rubbed people the wrong way. If you throw me the ball and I'm not getting it done, then you can talk crap about me because I'm going to talk crap about myself. Other than that, I just want to win, period. I want to see guys do well. If we win the game, I'm fine with that. I had one catch Monday. We won. I can't remember the last time I was not involved in a game. It was weird for me when we had the ball to stand on the sidelines and wait to be called in. That was different for me. It's something I'm going to have to get used to initially.
Q: Where there ever any discussions about coming back here after your release?A: No. And you know what's funny? I read the Internet all the time. I read everything. I read the good crap about me and the bad crap about me. It doesn't matter. I don't care. I read I wanted to come back to Cincinnati. That's a lie. I didn't even talk to anybody. Marvin texted me, 'Keep your head up. You're going to be all right.' That was it. All that 'T.J. wanted to come back...' Now had T.O not been in Cincinnati, that's different. But he was there. That was never in consideration. Because I already knew. You got T.O., you got Chad, and then Shipley showed he could play. I didn't consider it because of what they have on offense. Period. If you say, 'OK, it's open competition, the best guy is going to play, of course, I'm going to be the best guy. That's how I feel.
Q: Laveranues didn't work out here and Antonio didn't work out here. How do you look at that?A: You want the truth? Just think about how much money they paid those guys in two years and how much they would have had to pay me. I think about that and tell Carson all the time. I'm just being honest with you. They could have saved a whole lot of money.
Q: By switching to Geico?A: By switching to Geico.
Q: (Their offer) was pretty much what they gave Coles and then Bryant…A: Not initially. I don't even want to get into it.
Q: Family back in L.A.?A: Yeah, a little adversity caught us a little off guard with the kids going to school. I'm going to be a lonely guy this year.