Another Wednesday at the Castle

John Harbaugh:

On how much a threat the Patriots’ newly-signed wide receiver Deion Branch will be: “It’s going to be interesting to see how they plug Deion in there. Obviously, we don’t know. It’s not something we’re going to know. We know Deion. The players know him. We’ve studied him, obviously, since they signed him. We can speculate all we want, but we won’t really know how he fits into that offense until they get out there and start playing.”

On New England Tom Brady having regained his former accuracy in throwing the football after his injury: “I’d say he’s back. He looks like he always has in his career. He’s drilling it in there in very tight quarters. Wes Welker’s back looking good. They just look like the same offense that they have been for years.”

On how strong fundamentals are as important for a player as intangibles and mental discipline: “I think decision-making is a big part of it. Poise goes with confidence. It goes back to the fundamentals. I stand on that. I think that’s what it is. [If] you play good technique, you tend to get confidence in your technique and you know in the most critical situation you can rely on your technique. None of us around here were athletes, were we? As I look around, I think it’s safe to say that we don’t know. But, if you talk to guys, [they will say] in critical situations, in pressure situations, they take a deep breath and go back to the basics. That’s what it is.”

On how difficult it is to match up with the athleticism of Patriots Aaron Hernandez: “They are figuring him out a little bit and realizing what they can do with him. And, he’s done a great job. He’s a vertical threat. He’s a crossing-route threat. He can run all the underneath routes that they run with Wes Welker - actually, that’s how athletic he is. He’s kind of a new dimension for them. And he’s a guy we’re figuring out exactly where he fits. We assume after the bye week there will be some new wrinkles in there for him. Rob Gronkowski, he’s a talented young tight end, and Alge Crumpler. They’ve got three really good tight ends that we’re going to have to deal with.”

On the Patriots being different team since the Ravens faced them last season in the playoffs: “We all are, [too]. Everybody’s different. We were a different team. We were both different teams in the playoffs than we were the first time we played them. That’s kind of the way it works.”

On why the Patriots have been so successful coming off their bye week: “I don’t know. It’s probably because they’re a good team, and they probably play a team that’s not as good as them. That’s probably what it boils down to. They’ve won a lot of games out of the bye, but they’ve won a lot of games over the last 9-10 years. So, I don’t know if the [bye helps them]. Obviously, they’re not undefeated since 2003, but that’s probably the biggest thing. They do a good job of studying themselves and changing up their tendencies a little bit - and we will be prepared for that - and studying an opponent. It’s an extra week off.”

On facing Belichick and if he challenges him in ways other coaches do not: “I don’t know. I don’t play chess. I’m not that smart. I don’t know what he does. I just have a lot of respect for Coach Belichick, and really the whole staff. But when you’re coming up as a coach and you look at the guys [who are successful head coaches], he’s always treated me really well for whatever reason - way back to when I was an assistant in Cincinnati and he was the head coach of the Browns and he’d come in and scout. And you get a chance to meet a guy, and of course, you are like, ‘Wow, he’s the head coach of the Browns.’ And then he treats you well. It’s just been that way all the way through, for whatever reason, and that’s what you respond to. It hasn’t really changed. I don’t know if he was as nice to me this spring as he has been in the past, but I respect, him and that’s the kind of thing that you appreciate when you compete. And, of course, you want to compete. That makes it even more important to do well.”

Joe Flacco:

On whether he has to elevate his play since he is going against Tom Brady: “No, I’m not facing Tom. That’s our defense. I’m going against the Patriot’s defense. I think we approach every week the same. We don’t feel like we have to play better. I don’t feel like I have to play better one week over the other. I’m going out there to play good each week, and that’s all I’m thinking about.”

On what it will mean to pass the franchise passing yardage record: “I don’t know, not too much. Hopefully I can have a lot more passing yards than two-and-a-half years worth. (laughter) I plan on being here for a while, and hopefully... It doesn’t really mean too much at this point.”

On whether there is any difference in preparing to face a team coming off of a bye: “No, I think we’re still preparing the same. We just came off another big win, and we’re just getting ready for another one. I think they’re the guys that have to worry about coming off the bye week, because they’re the ones that had it. I think they probably had a little less of a workload last week, and now they’re getting back in it today, getting ready to go. We’re still kind of in that flow, so I think if anybody had that challenge, it would be them.”

Ray Lewis:

On how different the Patriots’ offense is without Randy Moss: “Anytime you remove a Randy Moss from any offense, you take away just a relief from any defense. I say that because that deep ball [he can catch]. No matter if you have great coverage on them or not, he’s going to make a play. He’s going to find a way to make a play. But I understand that they’re going to definitely move on in their progression of offense. You don’t prepare differently for them, but you do prepare [knowing] you’re not playing against Randy Moss. And that’s always huge.”

On whether the win at New England last year or the wins at Pittsburgh and New York this year brought him more confidence: “For us, I think the only thing that gives you confidence is just trying to keep going what we’ve got going - and that’s just winning. I don’t think we’ve looked back yet. It’s way too early to look back, and it’s way too early to look forward. Right now I think it’s just next game up. Like I said, we’ve been on the road for a good stretch at the beginning of the season. And now we’re kind of settling in and coming to those two good little games [at home]. And this is a huge game. Everybody knows at the end of the year New England is going to be up there, fighting for the playoff berth and things like that. So for us to go up there and beat them, or try to get a victory at New England, is going to be huge.”

On whether he would have a chip on his shoulder if he was in the Patriots’ position: “No. I don’t know, man. If you get into revenge... Every year is a new year, every game is a new game. [It] is a different game, and I don’t think they’re going back that far to think about it that much. I just think the bottom line for them is to try to get a win, just like for us this week is to try to get a win.”

On what Fabian Washington means to the defense: ”’‘Fabe-o,’ man, that’s somebody that you just enjoy playing the game with because you know what you’re going to get from him. You’re going to get 110 percent. He loves playing it, and anytime you get that, you know he’s always going to be where he’s supposed to be. And most of the time if somebody does break away, he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be - running them down. ‘Fabe-o’ just runs like that. I think going on our defense, every person has a very specific trait that they have, and his is covering anybody he wants to cover and running with anybody he wants to run with.”

Fabian Washington:

On how he expects the Patriots to be different without Randy Moss: “I don’t think they’re going to take as many shots [downfield] anymore, because with a guy like Randy Moss, that’s what he does. You throw it up and he catches the ball, as we’ve seen [last] Monday night. That’s what he does. But, they still have a receiver in [Brandon] Tate that’s a nice vertical threat, so I do expect them to throw deep balls, but just not as much.”

On some of the things that Tom Brady does that make it so challenging to stop him: “One big thing that you can see is his accuracy. He’s going to get the ball where it needs to be. Even if it’s tight coverage, he knows how to put it where only the receiver can get it, and he can find the open guy. You know, you say Moss isn’t there, but I think he won three Super Bowls without Moss, something like that. So he’s going to find the open guy. You just have to cover the receivers and hope he makes a mistake.”

On whether it makes him hungrier to win in New England since he missed the playoff game there due to injury: “I just want to get a win, because I want to get to 5-1. You know, the guys won that game in New England last year, and I was proud of them.”

On whether there is any concern in the back of his mind with New England coming off a bye week: “Not really. I wouldn’t say any concern. I know they’re going to put in a few new wrinkles, because they’re going to have two weeks to prepare for us, so we’re expecting something new.”