Opening statement: "Good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. We're focusing on the next game, which is the [New England] Patriots. So, what questions do you have?"
You're 6-2 at the midpoint, the same record you had last year at the halfway point. How do you feel the team has played thus far? Do you see the potential for another great second half, as you did last year? (David Ginsburg) "You take every game and every season as you find it. It's different than last year, just like next year will be different than this year. So, it's really hard to compare. It's really not worth comparing to last year – not that that's your question – but we're just trying to find a way to win the next game, to be honest with you. So, any big observations, I'll leave that to you guys. We're just trying to figure out how we can improve and just be the best team we can be next Sunday night – that's really what we have to focus on."
Do you have any updates with DE Calais Campbell? (Jamison Hensley) "[It's] the same as I said last night; it's not a season-ender, major injury, or anything like that. It's a calf strain. So, we'll see where that goes."
Along those same lines, with CB Marlon Humphrey, as of now, are you expecting him to come off the COVID-19 reserve list this week and be available next weekend? (Childs Walker) "Yes. It's a 10-day protocol, to my understanding. So, nothing has changed that's been reported to me."
How important were some of those three- to five-yard runs? And how much of that is a credit to QB Lamar Jackson's ability to make a play and stretch a frustrated defense? (Gabi DiPaula) "I think that's an excellent observation. The idea of staying ahead of the chains is really valuable. The difference between being second-and-7, as you mentioned, or [second-and]-6, or [second-and]-5, as opposed to second-and-10 is a big deal. That's kind of how football works. So, you love to get first downs on first and second downs, certainly, but you like to put yourself in position to be third-and-manageable, not third-and-long. There's a big difference between what you see defensively on third-and-long and what you have to accomplish against it. So, those runs were big; they were important. They were quarterback driven; a couple times he ran out. I thought he did a great job with that."
You guys did not commit a penalty in the second half yesterday. What was the key to that discipline? Was that a main driver of, sort of, that second half comeback? (Todd Karpovich) "It was good. We lined up right. We did a good job with the cadence – that was the main thing. That was basically it."
I hope you're well and your family is good. You haven't had a chance to really see QB Lamar Jackson come out of a slump or have much negative play in his career. Is there something you've learned from watching him go through these last six quarters of football into the second half yesterday? (Stan Charles) "Thanks for the well wishes; I appreciate that. Nothing new in terms of Lamar [Jackson] [from] what we already knew. He's very determined. He wants to learn. He listens. He works hard. I think he knows he doesn't know everything. That's probably the most important thing about learning, is just understanding that you don't know what you don't know, and he's like that. So, he's young; it's a process, certainly. [It's] a growth process for all of us, but especially for him. He's got a big curve that he's on in terms of growth, and he's doing a good job with it."
I wanted to get an update. Is ILB L.J. Fort, the finger injury, is that a long-term thing? And then to follow up on that, how did you think ILB Malik Harrison and ILB Chris Board played, obviously, playing more snaps? (Luke Jones) "Not a long-term thing with L.J. [Fort] – no. I thought those guys played really well. I thought they played excellent football. Especially for not having practiced, they did a really good job. I thought Mike Macdonald, our linebackers coach, did a great job with those guys getting them ready to play. There were very few mistakes. They played super hard. They were both done at the end of the game, physically; they just left it all out there. I was really proud of how hard the team played, and [that was] epitomized by those two guys who hadn't practiced. They played really well. That's two really good young linebackers that we've got … Chris Board, [Patrick Queen], but I'd also put Malik [Harrison] in that group, too … All three of those guys, they really came and played just excellent football."
WR Dez Bryant played two snaps yesterday. Can you let us know what kind of went into the thinking of first elevating him from the practice squad? And could his role expand going forward? (Jamison Hensley) "There's really nothing much to talk about. We had the spot, and we thought he was ready enough to do it. You don't really plan how many reps a player is going to get – it just kind of works out, sometimes, that way. Generally, you do, but not specifically. We knew it wasn't going to be a lot of reps. I didn't know how many it would be exactly, but we'll just see going forward how it plays out. It's really not something that I think we need to advertise. We'll just see where it goes."
DE Yannick Ngakoue – he hasn't had a big sack or anything, but how have you seen him progress in the two weeks since he's been here? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I think he did a really good job. He played hard. He was a factor off the edge; I thought he flushed Philip [Rivers] out a couple times. [He] ran to the ball, [and] chased a couple things down. He played well against the run. He's still learning the defense, certainly, but he was very active out there. Man, I'll tell you; he adds a speed factor to our defense that, really … We have some fast guys out there anyway, but he adds another element of that, which is a big plus. He was physical. I'm very happy with 'Yan' [Yannick Ngakoue]. I think he adds a lot to our defense. The stats that you're talking about, those are definitely going to be on the horizon – there's no doubt about that. So, he's doing well."
Another young player, DT Justin Madubuike, looked like he had a nice play chasing one down from behind on a running back play where it looked like he had some room to run. What did you think of the rookie and the way he kind of stepped up after DE Calais Campbell went out? (Ryan Mink) "That was a great play you're talking about; he really did. That [running back] was about to get out, and he really showed some great acceleration and went and got it on a pursuit effort play. That was [a] tremendous football play, and it really made a difference for us. He played really well. He was very physical. He played like we like to play, as far as our techniques inside there. He's learning that as he goes, and he's getting more consistent with that. He has all the ability to do it. He brings a little bit of a pass rush inside with his physicality. Definitely, I think he's been more of a force every single game that he's played in there. He did a good job. I'm glad we got him – that's for sure."
Yesterday, you were trailing at halftime, and you got the win. You flipped the outcome in the second half after trailing in the first half. How big is that in terms of QB Lamar Jackson's development and your team's development moving forward as you play tough teams? (Gerry Sandusky) "I don't know. Those questions – you can probably tell – you just don't think about that stuff. It's not really something that you focus on. Is it important? Sure. Is it something to talk about? Yes. You gain confidence, probably, by doing that. It's very important. I was just proud of the win. It's not like you don't try to do that whenever you're down; you try to come back and win the game. So, the fact that we were able to do it … I thought all three phases really played well together in the second half and made a couple big plays. There were a couple key plays; you talk about the fumble that happened – look at what Marquise [Brown] did. If you watch the play, Marquise made the tackle; if not, that's probably going to go for a touchdown there. So, those are the little things that you kind of generalize and talk about when you talk about things like heart and fortitude and stuff like that. It's really what you're talking about when you look at the tape and you see the effort plays that are made to make the difference in the game. Because that's what it boils down to. You have to win plays, and you have to stack plays, and you have to avoid mistakes, like Todd [Karpovich, Sports Illustrated] was talking about. Those are all the things that you just have to do to win against really good teams in tough games. So, that's something that we're learning to do as we go. You do learn by experience. You gain confidence by actually doing things as opposed to hoping you can do them. So, we'll see where we go from here."
You have the rare opportunity to watch the New England Patriots tonight, and you're going to play them next week. Do you take advantage of that? In other words, do you sit there and actually watch the game more intently than you might otherwise do? (Stan Charles) "Yes, for sure. A lot of times, you really don't even watch the Monday night game. You're working on your other work, so you usually don't see the Monday night game too much. Sometimes you see the Thursday night game a little more, because we're a little further along; it depends on how much work you have to do on Thursday night. I'll definitely be watching this, because it's their [New England Patriots] game; there's no tape for us to watch from yesterday. So, we've got all those games broken down already. We have our work to do today and tomorrow on those guys, but that game is a big part of it, so I'll probably watch it a little more closely. I'll be interested in who's playing, who's in, who's out – that kind of stuff. We've already seen who's been declared 'out' on the injury report, which was interesting. So, it's just a matter of looking at all that stuff, and yes, watching the game – absolutely."
Is there any kind of added excitement being able to watch QB Joe Flacco play? (Ryan Mink) "Yes. Joe [Flacco] is a guy that we obviously have great regard for, and [we] always pull for him, and root for him and want to see him do well. It'll be kind of neat to see that."
You've lost a bunch of defensive backs. How challenging has that been, not just on defense, but also on special teams? It seems like you were rolling through a lot of gunners, because your primary ones are on Injured Reserve. (Jeff Zrebiec) "That's one of the things they did – as you know – with the deeper practice squads and that to help you in these kinds of cases. I would be hopeful that some of these rules carry over past this year. I think they've really helped teams put a good team on the field with guys who have actually been on your team and who are at least trained up – guys like Geno Stone who haven't played but have practiced with us all along. So, they know what to do, then you give them a shot and see how they do. So, it's been a plus for us. It's been, definitely, a challenge, but the same challenge everybody's facing this year."
To pick it up with the word "challenge" – your challenge on the CB Marcus Peters interception was probably one of the most notable single decisions from Week 9. Was that something you saw from your angle on the field? I know you work together as a staff on when to challenge plays. (Gerry Sandusky) "You are the king of the segues – there's no question about that. You'll go down in history as a segue master. (laughter)
"It's all part of it. It all goes to together. You see it on the field, and you think, 'OK, did what I think I saw really happen?' Then, you see a replay – they show it to you on the screen in the stadium – if not, you hope that the TV shows it upstairs where your guys can see it. Certainly, they were looking at it, too. And then you just talk about it, and then you have to work with the play clock and the timing of what's going on to see if you have time [and] enough information to try to throw the [challenge] flag. But it was a big play. It was an important play, so you probably err on the side of taking the shot at it as opposed to not, because it was such a valuable play. But we really were very confident that it was going to be overturned."
Your offensive line – how do you think they performed yesterday? And obviously, with the changes you've had to make, what have you seen in their ability to build some chemistry for the next few games? (Cliff Brown) "Yes, I thought they played pretty darn good. That front [Indianapolis Colts] they were playing is really, really good. That's one of the very top defenses, very top fronts, in the league. Their two inside players, they're two of the best. Their ends are really great. They have a great middle linebacker. All their front seven are really incredible. So, they do a lot of moving, a lot of stemming, a lot of – we call them – 'pirate stunts,' where they crash the end and the tackle inside and bring the backer around those two guys. That's a tough one against runs, and we struggled with them more in the first half. Then [in the] second half, we started to get a little sense of the timing of it a little bit better, because it's hard to practice that kind of speed and how well they do that stuff. So, I thought our [offensive] line did a good job of adjusting throughout the game. 'Joe D' [offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris] did a great job of coaching those guys up throughout the game. It showed up in the second half. We were better against it."
Is CB Khalil Dorsey alright? Do you have any update on him? And with C Matt Skura, was that just a superficial wound that he suffered yesterday? (Jonas Shaffer) "A flesh wound? Is that what you're asking? Was it a flesh wound?" (Reporter: "Flesh wound, yes.") (laughter) "I think so. I don't think it hit any major organs. I think we're OK on that one. And then Khalil [Dorsey], yes, he had a shoulder [injury]. That's going to be probably a couple weeks for him – a dislocated shoulder. Man, I was out there when they were popping that thing back in. That was … It looked painful."
Was that the same shoulder both times, or were they different injuries? (Jonas Shaffer) "I don't know. I don't think HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] allows me to acknowledge what the details are. I'm going to go with HIPAA on that."