Harbaugh sounds open to reduced preseason schedule

August 20, 2019 | WNST Staff

Head Coach John Harbaugh press conference transcript from Tuesday’s joint practice

Have you gotten a birthday gift for executive vice president of public and community relations Kevin Byrne? “Kevin Byrne, happy birthday Kevin Byrne. That’s a great way to start it out. Thank you. Kevin is 70 years young. You wouldn’t even know it! You see this guy playing basketball and racquetball? Man, not a day over 69. (laughter) Happy birthday, Kevin.”

Now that you know what the NFL might be trying to move towards with a couple preseason games, do you kind of see this as part of the future, these joint practices? “I think the joint practices are really good. I do. We had two great days, two teams that are very like-minded in what we wanted to get out of it. I thought we had a very physical, very hot [practice] and no issues. You might’ve had a little shoving match or talking going on here, but it was really good fun. I just felt like we got a lot of work done. I wouldn’t be opposed to that at all. I’m on record … I don’t know how many of these preseason games we really need to play, but I also understand there’s a lot … There’s a lot to the bargaining process, so we’ll see what happens.”

When you were here, you had some of these teams come through. Was it different than it is now because the preseason is so different? “We didn’t really have those. We had scrimmages back with Ray Rhodes. My first year, we had the scrimmage against the Bills, and that was only a one-day deal. The practices for us really hadn’t started until about five, six years ago. We came here in ’15; we went with my brother [Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers] in ’14. It’s really kind of new for us, too, but it’s been good. Every time we’ve done it, it’s been good.”

We’ve talked about potential slot guys with CB Tavon Young out. Is CB Anthony Averett a guy you could use there? Is he versatile enough to play in the slot? “Yes, he was in there today and yesterday, so he’s one of the guys working in there. Almost all of the guys work in there. Marlon [Humphrey] has been in there, Jimmy [Smith] has even been in there, so it just kind of depends. For us, the way we’re operating right now, it depends on the call, it depends on the matchup, things like that.”

Is there anything definitive with CB Tavon Young either way? Have you made a decision? “Nothing definitive. I think it’s probably … It’s in the opinions of the doctors. I’m sure there are different ways of looking at it, so they’ll probably see how it goes in the next week or two or three, whatever they have to do, and see what the progress is.”

What has it been like watching TE Nick Boyle grow over the last couple years, and how important is it to have a strong leader in that tight end group? “It’s a great point; Nick is a leader. Those guys look up to him, his style of play and the way he goes about his job. Nick is all business. He’ll laugh and have fun, but quickly turns his attention right back to the task at hand. Loved him, loved him ever since he got to the Ravens, and I’m glad he’s our tight end.”

It’s been a few years since you’ve seen QB Carson Wentz up close and in person. What do you think of his progression? “He looks good to me. Whenever you play against somebody, maybe they look better to you than they do to your own [eyes] – if you’re with the guy – but I think the Eagles are very happy with him. I can see why. He’s one of the top quarterbacks”

The guys that didn’t practice today, anything concerning, or just the normal bumps and bruises of camp? “Yes, nothing really concerning. Nothing major that I’m aware of at this time. As we know, that can change.”

What is it like being back here, seeing so many people? “It’s fun. It’s fun coming back. The place is still beautiful, the surroundings. I’m wondering if some of these sandwich places are still here or not. (laughter) It’s just a great organization. Mr. [Jeffrey] Lurie was so good to us, and of course, Doug [Pederson] is a class act. He’s kind of a connection to the past. It’s good to see that the Eagles are in that kind of mode that they’re built the same way they’ve been built for a long time. And, that continuity leads to success. It’s great to be back that way.”

Since the end of last season, you talked about improving QB Lamar Jackson’s ball-handling. What has been worked on, and what have you seen in terms of progress with him? “It’s been way better. If you’re just watching the practice, you probably saw it. Lamar makes very few mistakes with ball-handling right now. The snaps have been much more accurate than they were in the past, so that starts everything off on the right foot. You haven’t seen a lot of the more complicated ball-handling plays, but the ones we have run have been well done. We had one where it was all quarterback today. We didn’t pull it properly, so that was on Trace [McSorley] to do a better job of that, and he usually does. We’re way ahead of the curve on that.”

I know he hasn’t been here long, but what are your impressions of QB Joe Callahan? “Joe has done a good job, a Delaware guy over there at Wesley [College]. He’s a good quarterback, has a very strong arm, leader, smart, really tough competitor. Hates making a mistake; hates it. And as a coach, you appreciate that, because we hate mistakes, and he doesn’t make very many of them. So, he has the right kind of mindset.”