Passing along some soundbites from conference calls conducted by Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and safety Ed Reed with members of the New England media on Tuesday afternoon.
On the differences he's noticed in the Patriots since the last time the two teams played during the AFC Championship earlier in 2012.
"Oh, not much. As far as their style and everything, it’s the same team. They’re tremendously great. That’s the thing now; I think they’ve improved even over last year’s team, even as a good as they were last year, a Super Bowl team. They were AFC Champions. They’ve done a great job with the draft, bolstering the team. They brought a few guys in and improved. They’ve done it again."
On how he feels the AFC Championship ties into this week (many players suggested that this year is a new year with new players).
"I probably view it like those guys. I’d be disappointed if they needed extra motivation for any game, especially for such a respected opponent as the Patriots.
On the origin of his relationship with Bill Belichick.
"Well, he may not remember this, but originally, probably around ’91, ’92, somewhere around there he was coaching the Browns and he came to the University of Cincinnati when I was a young coach there and he was scouting some of our players. We had a chance to sit down and talk about those guys. He and Scott O’Brien were really close and Scott was a mentor for me coming up early on there and always has been, actually. So we had that connection and that’s where I first met him. Obviously I was in awe of the man at the time and that probably hasn’t changed too much."
On what has stood out to him from Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones.
"I’m impressed with how well he’s been coached and how disciplined he is and the attention to detail he plays with for a rookie. He’s obviously tremendously gifted, but they’ve done a great job with bringing him along so quickly."
On what it is about Bill Belichick that has earned his respect.
"I mean he’s a winner for one. I had an opportunity to talk to Coach Belichick a couple times and had him over there at the Pro Bowl. Just watching ‘A Football Life’ with Coach Belichick you can’t do anything but have much respect for Coach Belichick and the way he runs things. His background and the discipline and focus that he asks of guys and what he allows you to do as a football player; he honestly understands your athletic ability. If you look at Coach Belichick and the way he coaches his team and the guys that play for him and the positions that they play, he allows football players to be football players. Coach understands that this is a short-lived career and not everybody is going to have those five and 10 and 15-year careers. A bunch of guys are great athletes and they can come on and make a name on his team and find themselves somewhere else with a starting job. You see a lot of guys playing out of position when you’re watching the Patriots play."
On how the Patriots offense will change if Aaron Hernandez is unable to play.
"That’s one less person to throw to but they will send somebody in and get somebody else some more catches. Somebody has to step up. It’s a professional league. Hernandez is probably not playing after that high ankle sprain. And being that it’s so early in the season, you’d much rather have a guy like that going for it and not hurting himself worse. But we’ll prepare for it either way. Like I said, somebody else will get a bunch more balls, I’m sure. There won’t be all this talk about Wes [Welker] and all these other guys who are not getting catches so somebody has to step up right now. Hernandez is a great tight end."
On whether Wes Welker not being on the field as much as previous seasons has stood out to him during film study.
"Not really. I see Wes catching the ball probably not as much but probably because they are throwing the ball to other guys who are open. It’s a long season and you do things in a certain way preparing for the weeks to come. I wouldn’t read too much into it. Wes Welker’s still a great receiver and I’m sure New England, [Tom] Brady and everybody knows that. It’s just that people probably want to make news of something that’s probably not something big in the organization. If it is, then that’s something they have to deal with."