Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement:"Good to see you guys – appreciate you being here. Good practice, guys worked hard, and we're getting ready for Cincinnati. I'm proud of the way they came to work today."
I find it insulting, and I'm sure you do, too, when people suggest that you lose to get a better draft pick next year. I know that's not what you're about, but do you have a response for people who would suggest that? (Jerry Coleman) "I don't really have a response. I understand what people are thinking on it, but we're playing to win the game. It's not even really a part of our thought process."
**I'm sure you have a lot of respect for the 31 other men who have your job. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been there 14 years now. What kind of special place does he hold in those ranks? *(Joe Platania) *"Marvin Lewis is highly-respected – just a tremendous coach, tremendous record, a guy that I always respected as a coach. He was a little bit ahead of me, as far as just up through the ranks. I've known of him for years and years and have always thought the world of him. He's always been very gracious toward me, personally, and toward anybody that I've ever seen him interact with. I just think he does a great job."
Is the enthusiasm level among players something you're zoning in on? This is a different week, as you said, when there's nothing to play for. Every other week, you've had something to play for. But guys do have something to play for, right – their careers and their futures, I would assume? (Jerry Coleman) "There's a lot to play for as a team and as individuals. That's what you do. It's professional football. We want to go win the game. We want one more win on the resume, for sure. Individually, we want to do our best [to] put our best foot out there. Football is a tough sport. It's going to be a tough, hardnosed game. There are going to be two teams out there that want to win the game – it's going to be competitive – and two teams clashing. Our guys are going to have to be ready for it to be at their best. We plan to put our best foot forward. That's what we're looking forward to doing. That's what we're working toward, to play our best football on Sunday. That's our goal."
What do you think it says about OLB Terrell Suggs and G Marshal Yanda, who might not be at full strength, for them to go out and play this game? (Jamison Hensley)"They're at full strength. They're the same as they were last week, the week before. They wouldn't have it any other way. That's just who they are. I think it says very positive things, to your question. It's a great point. That's just who they are. They're professional football players. They approach the job with the utmost professionalism. They're very tough. They love football. They want to play. Guys want to play. They look forward to playing the game. That's the only kind of guys we really want to have around here. That's the kind of guys we do have."
Was there a time over the summer or last year when you foresaw TE Dennis Pitta being able to do what he's done this year? Did you see glimpses of it and figured he could be as productive and durable as he's been all year? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think that just played itself out. I don't remember a moment. There was no eureka moment. He came out, and he looked good the very first day, which was positive. He looked like he could move and just went from there and went to work. Once he was back, he was back. To my eye, once he was back practicing, he was back. Then we had the little setback with the hand, which was disappointing. It would have been good to have him through that stretch, which I often – not recently – but I have often mentioned to him. (laughter) He's had a heck of a year. [Pitta is] another guy who loves football, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for – just really respect what he's done."
With G Marshal Yanda on the left side, it's been a pretty good team with T Ronnie Stanley. Is there any inclination to look at it in that way next year, or do you think he will go back to his natural position when he's back at 100 percent?* (David Ginsburg)*"I do. I think he'll want to go back to the right side once he's 100 percent. I think he'll want to play on the right side. He's played there before. I did joke with him about it a month ago, and I think he's going back to the right side."
**On that same note, if T Rick Wagner isn't able to go, is G/T Alex Lewis a guy you take a look at right tackle this week? *(Ryan Mink) *"Without putting our lineup out there, Alex can certainly do it. Of course, James Hurst can do it. One of those guys will be doing it. We'll just see how it plays out during the week."
**Speaking of things playing out, how do you expect the WR Steve Smith Sr. thing to go? Do you have a conversation with him after the season? Part two of that question: What has it been like to be his coach for the past three years? *(David Ginsburg) *"As far as the first part of it, he and I talk every day. I pretty much know where he's at continually, because we have a really, I would say, close relationship. We talk a lot. That's a great question for him to answer on where he's at with it. As far as what it's been like to coach Steve Smith, I would say it's been nothing but an honor, a privilege and a joy. Every single day I look forward to it. He's the kind of guy when you see him come in, I get excited, because it's like, 'OK, what's going to happen next? What's he going to say? What's he going to do?' I know he's going to give us his best. I know he's going to compete. I know he's going to raise the level of everybody around him. That's what the great ones do. I think the great ones make everybody around them better. Steve does it in his way. He's a very fiery personality. He's also very funny and very sharp, as you know. It's a couple of years I really cherish in my career, having a chance to coach him, to be his coach. I look forward to a long-lasting friendship. We've gotten very close, and it really means a lot to me."
John, is there a personal experience or story of him you can share? (Brett Hyman) "Maybe I'll give it some thought. Another time, I'll think of something. I don't really have anything off hand right now. I'd like to give that some thought."
QB Joe Flacco
On head coach John Harbaugh vowing to play starters in this Sunday's game:"We're professionals. This is what we do. This is what we love to do, No. 1. I'm excited about it. Like I said, you have to pick yourself [up]. We're optimistic about this week. It's another chance to go out there and play the game we love. I couldn't be more excited about it."
On if there is a different feel to this game with no playoff hopes: "Yes, it's obviously … When we didn't come through on Sunday [in Pittsburgh], it was obviously a little bit different. It's probably a little bit of a different experience at this point. Come Sunday, I don't anticipate it being too much different, because it's going to be a hard-hitting, physical, tough NFL game. We better come ready to play."
On if he believes this will be WR Steve Smith Sr.'s last game:"It's tough. I don't want to speak for him. We've had some talks. I don't really want to answer either way with that. I really don't. I'm not him."
On what the past three years have been like with Smith Sr. as a teammate: "Steve is unbelievable. I have nothing but great things to say about him and my time spent with him. I feel very fortunate to be with him. His competitive nature and the way he plays his game and the talent that he has, he's definitely unique and a rare breed. Anytime you get a chance to play with a guy that's really a legend in this game is, count yourself lucky."
On if he will target Smith Sr. even more for his last game: "No. To be honest with you, he's never been the type of guy who has come up and been in my ear. Maybe this game he will be.* (laughter)* If that's the case, whichever way it is, if it happens to be his last game, then you definitely want to send him out the right way. The most important way to do that is to win the football game."
On if he has encouraged Smith Sr. to come back next year: "No, that's not really my nature. It's his decision. He knows how I feel about him and what kind of football player I think he is and how much he helps this team out. He knows all of that. He knows how I feel in that stance, but at the end of the day, it's his decision. I really don't want to be the guy to influence that either way. I want him to do what he feels is best."
On if he can tell how much TE Dennis Pitta's production this year has meant to him after returning from his latest injury:"The only thing I can say is that last year at some point, you could really tell that he was feeling good. He wanted to get back out there, and he wanted to play the game. You could tell he was excited about it. He still hadn't made his mind up, as to whether he was going to do it or not. Maybe he had, but not publicly or not to me. There was a point in there where I could tell, 'He's going to play. He wants to. He wants to too badly.' What you see with Dennis is what you get. He's being honest with you. It's tough to really read the fact that is been this huge deal for him. I think it has been what he's expected. That's why he's in this position, because he expected to come out here and play at some point. I think he's being honest with you. I wouldn't say anything else."
On where Smith Sr.'s competitiveness ranks among NFL players: "I hate to say it's his 'competitiveness.' He is. He brings that's to the table. That's one of the things that makes him who he is, but he's just so darn good. He's powerful. He's not very big, but he's so explosive, so powerful, can change directions like that. He's just so strong for his size – not even just for his size. He's just a strong dude. The ferociousness that he runs with the ball, how he runs with the ball, so many things. I think that comes out in people saying 'competitiveness.' He's just got a lot of ability, and he's not afraid. When the lights come on and when the big moments are here upon us, he reacts to it in a positive way, and it gets him going. You can see it. You see it every Sunday."
On a personal story about Smith Sr.:"You put me on the spot. It's tough to think about a specific story with him. We've had great days. The first time I threw a pass to him was in this building. It was in the offseason. I threw a five-yard, six-yard hitch to him, and he started turning upfield before the ball even got to him. It was a ball that probably would have hit him right here in the chest, and instead he starts turning up field and catches it like this (facing forward with arms stretched toward the back) with no look. I'm like, 'Aw man, this is going to be crazy. He's doing all kinds of crazy things out here. Who knows where I'm going to have to throw the ball to this guy.' (laughter) You could tell how explosive he was and how good his hands were. He always does that, too, on the practice field. I think he's just working on his hand-eye and stuff like that, and somewhat messing with me. *(laughter) *That was the first thing I remember about him is, 'Man, I just hit him right in the chest, and he made it look like the worst throw in the world. We'll see how this goes.'"
WR Steve Smith Sr.
On if this will be his last NFL game:"I'm about 89 percent sure. I am pretty sure I know what I want to do. I have great support from my family. My wife supports me, whichever way I want to go. My boys want me to still play. But there is a little girl named Bailey Smith who wants her daddy home. Football is a conduit. Something that it gives you … It is a platform – good and bad – but it gives you an opportunity. Football has given me more than I probably can give football back. For 2016, '17 and beyond, it is probably my last game."
On what his emotions are like with this most likely being his last game: "I have been playing with house money. I have the best … People say, 'Come back and get some statistics!' I have the best statistic ever: I played 16 years. Today was pretty emotional out on the field, because it was windy for a little bit, and some of the parts of the field were frozen when we were on the field, and the sun was shining. It was confirmation today; God winked at me."
On him still leaving a window open of playing by saying "89 percent": "Just let it be. I am just trying to have a good, nice press conference, and you are nudging me. I'm telling you, 89 is my number, I am not going to pick a different number."
On playing the Bengals this Sunday: "Cincinnati is no different opponent than any other game – my first game, my last game. I am going to out there and trying to make plays. You want to make an impact, you want to have fun, smile, frown, just go out there and play. I expect they are going to play things to try and stop us as a team. They want to end on a good note, just like we do. It is going to be interesting. It is going to be furious, feisty, it is going to be fun."
On if he feels like he has lost a step: "I am 37 years old. Yes. *(laughter) *But I am 37 years old, and teams are still game-planning me. It does not matter about losing a step or not. It is about playing. There are teams right now … People can say what they want to say. They can say I'm not as good as I used to be, blah, blah. At the end of the day, there are teams hoping to draft a guy like me. I have made my mistakes. I have done things that I am not proud of. But at the end of the day, our uniqueness, our pitfalls, our negative things, our positive things – that is what makes us. I have never shied away. I'm good."
On how he plans on staying in the moment for this week and for Sunday's game:"It is hard to do, but you do it."
On what the 2016 season has been like and if it has made the decision to retire more difficult: "Put it like this: I really relate … I can understand what my son went through when I was going and dropping him off for college – he was packing up to move on. What is hard for me is I'm packing up my house here in Baltimore, and I am putting my career in boxes. That is tough; it is emotional."
On what he wants his legacy to be as an NFL player: "People are going to say the legacy … People are going to say what they want. Fans are going to say what they want, good and bad, 'good riddance' and all of that stuff. But at the end of the day, I'm good. I played 16 years, 37 years old, 5-9, chip, no chip. At the end of the day, it has been a crazy, unbelievable opportunity that I never would have thought I would have. Financially, I have been able … [Panthers owner] Mr. [Jerry] Richardson and [Ravens owner] Mr. [Steve] Bisciotti gave me something that I would be able to change generationally, be able to provide money to take my kids to college, that they don't have to think about. [I have been able] to help communities and give and serve in communities and places and experience things that I never really thought of. I had no idea where North Carolina was when I got drafted, because getting on an airplane and traveling was not something that I did. But it has been cool. It has been a great opportunity; it has been fantastic. I have no … We complain about a lot of things. I can make up some things. I can think long and hard enough to complain about something, but I really do not have anything to complain about. I have exceeded all expectations for a lot of people."
On if he has thought about how he will stay around NFL after his career: "I am trying to get through the day and tomorrow and the next day. I am trying to get to Sunday without crying like a little kid."
On how much John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco's comments about enjoying getting to know him and how much having him as part of the organization has meant to them: "It makes me do things that a lot of people do not see me do, except at home – smile. They are things I can hold on to. This game gives us a lot of things, but I think a disadvantage that it does not give fans is a holistic perspective of how players are on and off the field. Sometimes, I know I have kind of had a demeanor where people can cast their judgment on me and rightfully so. But you do not know how someone is by watching them play football in their job for two-and-a-half hours of the day. I have four kids, a wife, and there are still things that they do that I am learning about them. So, I know damn well you do not know everything about me or anyone else because you see them two hours a day playing football getting tackled by … You get tackled by [Steelers linebacker] James Harrison, and you are not getting up and saying, 'Oh thanks. I appreciate it.' Or if you get blown up the middle, [you are not saying], 'Hey man, I really appreciate the way you just knocked the snot out of me. Hey, I appreciate that.' It is different, but it is this game. It is awesome."
On why he feels like the Ravens have been such a good fit for him: "Look at how it has been. I love it here. This is not a ploy to … I am going to enjoy my time off and take some time and just relax, chill out."
On QB Joe Flacco joking that Smith Sr. may want the ball thrown his way more this week:"Joe is just talking snot. (laughter) But there are plays that I am supposed to get the ball, and I get it. There are plays where I am not even supposed to get the ball, and I get it. I have 1,000 receptions; I do not care what all of you all think." (laughter)
On if he will miss the competiveness of football:"I am going to miss it. I am going to mourn. It is something that has been a part of my life for 16, 20 years. I played in college, junior college, high school. Yes, I am going to miss it. I would be a fool not to say I am going to miss it. But there are parts of my body that are going to not miss it. But there is nothing I can do about that. Very rarely do you see 60-year-old men playing football. It is not going to happen; it is not going to start. Yes, there will be a transition. There will be a process. There will be a mourning. There will be a lot of emotions. But also, there are a lot of other things that I can grasp on that [you] can't take away – that I will be able to hold on to. You know what? Whether you want to or not, you are going to move on. It is part of life. The world still turns. Unfortunately, when people pass, people still have to go on about their day."
On what he will miss about football: "The interaction with some great guys. But that is what telephones are for – text messages. I have some lifetime … [Former Ravens running back Justin] Forsett texted me today. I'm good."
OLB Terrell Suggs
On the best part of having a locker next to WR Steve Smith Sr. for the past three years:"The stories. I don't know, man. When they bring in a player that's definitely competitive and fiery like yourself and that's known for the 'Raven Way' around here, that's pretty good. We've had some great times."
On if part of him wants to win this next game for Smith Sr.: "Part of me. But a lot of me [just] wants to win it. I'm very competitive. I don't really like to lose; a lot of me wants to win it."
On if part of wanting to win is because of the reputation of the defense throughout the year: "We want to win at all costs. We want to win. We fell a little short [last week at Pittsburgh], and we disappointed. But we definitely don't want our last game as a 2016 team to go down as a loss. We really want to win it."
On opinions that the team should lose on Sunday to get a higher draft pick: "Say what? That's bad advice. You don't want to develop that kind of character. You don't want to develop that kind of habit. That's a terrible idea. We're going to fight. We've always been fighters. A lot of our Sundays are numbered. All of them are to be cherished. There's no losing to get higher draft picks. If that's what we're doing, then I'm definitely on the wrong team, because like I said, for a man that's on the back nine of his career, all of my Sundays count. All of my games count, especially to me. There's no losing to get a higher draft pick. If that's the plan, somebody needs to notify me and let me know now."
On how close the Ravens are to being a playoff team again: "That's something we're going to have to address in the offseason. That's not something I really can worry about right now. That's a question for coach. As long as I'm playing, I'm focused on being the best I can be, the best 'Sizzle' I can be. That's a coach question."
On if the core players returning next year makes him optimistic for next season: "I still have a game on Sunday. I'm not really worried about next year. That's injustice for everybody. This is the 2016 Ravens, and we have one game left. We're going to end it on a bang."
On if WR Steve Smith Sr. is one of the most competitive guys he has played with: "He's definitely up there. He's one of them. He's definitely one of them, but come on now, it's the Ravens' locker room. We have a lot of competitive guys."
On what drives him as a player: "I don't know. I wake up and get out of my bed and show up to work. I couldn't tell you what drives me. I love what I do – best job in the world, if you ask me. I couldn't tell you what drives me. I just love what I do."
On if he has ever considered stepping away from the game:"No. If you haven't caught on, I don't like those types of questions. I know I'm not 26, but I'm not 40 either. I just like to play football."
On sharing a fun story about WR Steve Smith Sr. throughout the years: "It was fun! All good things come to an end … if he is retiring. You never know with 89, you never know. Until he turns in his papers, I'll expect to see him every day until he tells me different. You love going to war with a guy like that, that's fiery kind of like myself."
On if he would try to talk Smith Sr. into returning next season:"We talk about it, but at the end of the day, it's his decision. Only he knows his body and his dedication."
On if he has spent a lot of New Year's Eves in Cincinnati: "We've been there a lot, now that you mention it. It seems like all around the league, everybody has a division game as their last game. Ours is always Cincy, but it is what it is. I never thought about that, but that's a good point."
DB/RS Lardarius Webb
On how long it took him to get over last week's disappointing loss:"I'm still a little disappointed. We have to move on. We want to finish the season out strong, and we have to go to Cincinnati to do it."
On how it has been to have WR Steve Smith Sr. as a teammate:"It's been great. I remember the first day he got here, we got into a fight on the field. *(laughter) *It's been amazing to play with, practice with and be in the locker room with a future Hall of Famer. You learn a lot from a guy like that. Y'all just see the guy that's on the field, but we see the soft side of him and also the crazy side of him, too. The crazy is just him being a competitor. He loves to win. He practices that way, and he plays like that. He's just that type of guy. [He's] a great guy in the community. He loves the kids. He loves giving back – a blessed guy. I've learned a lot from him."
On if he feels bad for the Bengals DBs if this is Smith Sr.'s last game: "Yes, yes I do. I just wish he would come back for one more year. I don't think that … It's his last game, [but] I don't think he's lost anything. I think he's still got a lot of talent, maybe two years left. I wish he would come back for another year, but I don't think that's going to happen. It's going to be a great moment to see him out there this last time, and I get to suit up with him."
On if he is glad they have one game left to get redemption from last week's game at Pittsburgh:"Sure, I don't want to go out with it, but that will be on my mind all offseason. While I work out, while I grind, while I get ready for next year, that Steelers game will be on my mind throughout. It will be my motivation to get up every morning to grind, to work, to go even harder, when I think about how I felt walking off that field. I'm going to let it go for a week, but I'm going to definitely use that in the offseason."
On opinions that the team should lose the last game for a higher draft pick: "I don't even think about it like that. I just know Ozzie [Newsome] and the guys upstairs are going to get a good player no matter what. We just want to win. Like you said, it will be nice to get a win in Cincinnati. I don't know the last time we got a win in Cincinnati. It's still a rivalry game. We still have some hate between one another. We are playing for something – for Steve [Smith Sr.] and for the organization. We want to go out 9-7. It sounds way better than 8-8."
On if he is surprised by TE Dennis Pitta's production this year coming off of his latest injury:"Not surprised. You know the talent that he has. I know he had some injuries, and I'm a guy that had some injuries myself, so I root for guys like that. You see him working in the training room and putting in work every morning you come in. You look forward to it. You know he has the hands. You know he has the skills. You were just hoping that his hip would last and would be strong enough, and it did. As long as his hip lasted with being strong, he has the talent to do what he does. I wasn't surprised by that."
S Eric Weddle
On if he regrets his decision to join the Ravens: "I do not live with regret. Everyone can think you should have went here or you should have went there, but I do not do that. I believe I was meant to come here, I was meant to be a part of this organization, and my time is not done here. It is just the beginning. I look at it as that we have grown a lot since I have been here. We have gotten better from last year. We were not good enough, obviously. But it can only mean one thing: That we can all look at it and get a little better and treat the offseason as a focal point to look at yourself first and get better and come back ready to work. I am excited for the future."
On if he realized where he was on the field when trying to tackle Steelers WR Antonio Brown on the last play on Sunday:"No, it was zone coverage. I just read the play and came out of my responsibility. I felt like I got a good hit on him, and from there, I didn't really know where I was at. You are just looking to stop him by any means, and they ended up pulling him back. You are just hoping for your guys to clean him up, clean me up, whatever it takes. A.B. [Antonio Brown] made an incredible play reaching it out; it is a credit to him. We came up short. You talk about six inches … We talk about it all the time. I think that was really the first time where I have been a part of game that was lost by the nose of the football."
On where the cohesion and chemistry of the team has comes from:"It comes from the organization, what we stand for, what we built. The guys that have come here have great personalities and work hard. We play for each other, and that is what it is all about. It is all about playing for the team, and that is what we will do on Sunday."
On his reaction to the notion that it may be better for the Ravens to lose on Sunday and get a better draft pick for 2017:"We just do what we are told. Whether we won or lost [against the Steelers], you still have to play this last game. A lot is riding on what you are as a person. Your character is on the line. You have to come out and fight and show what you are all about when nothing is on the line. I have been in the situation before, and I am not proud of it. You learn a lot about your teammates. You know, do you really love the game? We are excited to go out there and finish with a winning record and build toward next season."
On the emphasis on the defense finishing strong: "For sure. We have struggled over the last few weeks. We obviously have played some good teams, but there is still an opportunity to be the No. 1 rush defense, which is a huge accomplishment. Shoot, we are not that far off being No. 1 in total yards. You do not get many opportunities like that in this league to have a chance at being No. 1. We are going to try our best to go out and play exceptional, and first of all, win the game, and second of all, have a great defensive effort."
On how long Steelers WR Antonio Brown's game-winning touchdown on Sunday will be in his mind: "You will never forget that. There was so much riding on it. You look at what you could have done different, if you could have played it quicker. It was just one of those things that if you make the play, you have a chance to be in the playoffs, and you are not. You will never let it go, but it will drive you, and hopefully make you better. If you get in the situation again, you will make the play, and this time next year, we will be smiling and heading towards the playoffs. I really believe that."
On the similarities he and WR Steve Smith Sr. have: "One thing is our competiveness. He is a little more outspoken about it. (laughter) Me, I just let it drive me and my inner fire. He is one of a kind. I have never seen someone be so magical in a game, whether it is making a big play, whether it is shrugging off defenders and getting the extra yards or blocking guys. It has been a true pleasantry for me to be a part of his last year, if it is. He has not really given us an idea of what he wants to do. But if he is, it has been a huge blessing to be a part of one of the greatest to do it."
On what it has been like to be WR Steve Smith Sr.'s teammate: "Just seeing his routine and his fire and daily activities. Whether it is walking around the locker room yelling at someone or on the field [during] one-on-ones, he is definitely one of a kind. You have to get adjusted to that, just his personality and how big it is, and to know this is who he is. This is what drives him. This is what makes him special. Just seeing what he does on the field, it always seems to amaze me what he can do at his age. His stature – he is a little guy – but he plays like he is the biggest guy on the field. It is something that is inspiring to a lot of us. He has done it for so long at a high level and been one of the best to do it. He is one of a kind; he is special."
On if he tries to convince WR Steve Smith Sr. not to retire: "Yes. I have been doing it all season. (laughter) He has definitely rebuffed me many of times. But I can get in his ear. I give him jabs here once in a while, because I know he is not going to go crazy on me. Whatever he decides, we support him, and we love him. He has brought so much to the game on the field, but more so off the field and what he has done with his charity work and how special he is. A lot of people don't know [how special], but the guys close to him do. He has changed a lot of lives."
On what has impressed him about TE Dennis Pitta coming back from injury:"I think I should take a little bit of credit. (laughter) He has finally got in the weight room, and he is working every day in there trying to get better. I think it is a direct correlation on why he has played so outstanding this year for us.* (laughter) *He is a great person. He works extremely hard, and to come back from those injuries says a lot about his demeanor, his character, his toughness. He is on the cusp of doing some great things for catches and yards and stuff like that. He is a consummate pro, and we are lucky to have him. He is a talented tight end and creates some mismatches out there that he can exploit."
On if he got the sense that TE Dennis Pitta had doubts about coming back this season:"No. I have been here since OTAs, so ever since the day he was in, he was ready to go. As long as he did not have a setback, he was going to roll."
BENGALS CONFERENCE CALLS
Head Coach Marvin Lewis
This could be WR Steve Smith Sr.'s last game. How much have you respected him from afar over the years and enjoyed competing against him?"Quite a bit. Steve has been a tremendous competitor and played at such a high level. I think each and every day, he shows up and makes his team better, which I think is key to any professional football player."
There is a lot of buzz here about John Harbaugh and his situation, independent of anything going on in Cincinnati. Do coaches just take that speculation at this time of the year as just part of the job?"Yes it is [part of the job]. It is unfortunate. At this point now, the way media works, people can just say and do whatever they want, and there are no repercussions back on them. They can just throw something out there and it be as off base as it can be. It is just unfortunate. I do not think it affects the coaches, maybe, as much as the people around them. Because the coach is immersed in what he is doing, and I'm sure John is worried about trying to prepare the team to win this football game. Now, his family and friends are seeing whatever is being said – which I am not privy to. But anyway, I know the same thing occurred here. It is unfortunate the way things can be cast out there right now, and they do not have to have any credibility."
You have made a lot of stops in your coaching career, but you have been at Cincinnati for quite a long time. What has this job meant to you with you being there so long? "It has been an opportunity which we kind of started and then had to restart. We had to retool with new players and new coaches and so forth a few times. Each and every time, you have to figure out a way and a new way and build things back up. Obviously, we will be well under that process soon, because we were not good enough this season. We are going to have to re-evaluate and get better. We have a lot of good, young players; we have some mature players, and we are going to all figure out a way to be better in 2017."
I know they are all professionals, but how do you get everybody to show up on Sunday? Is that on the veterans?"Well, you hit it nail on the head. These are professionals, and they are judged on how they go day-in and day-out. The next game, the next season, is not promised to them. I think people take a very critical eye on people and how they carry themselves and handle themselves in these kind of situations."
What is the status on WR A.J. Green and LB Vontaze Burfict for Sunday's game?"A.J. won't play this week, and Vontaze is progressing through the concussion protocol, and that will get determined later."
You have had some flux at the kicker position. How crucial is it to have a reliable kicker? "It is something I think you want to … Just like your quarterback, you want be able to know that things are going to go as planned there. That is really important, that you take the angst out of those situations as much as you can."
In the first meeting, K Justin Tucker had three field goals over 50 yards. What is your assessment of his play this year? "He has had an exceptional season."
CB Adam Jones
On how much he has enjoyed competing against WR Steve Smith Sr. over the years:"It's been good. It's one of the battles that I look forward to. These last couple years have been fun."
On if Smith Sr.'s comments that he has enjoyed watching Jones grow means a lot to him: "Yeah, it does. I've known Steve a long time. We've played against each other a lot of times. I know when I was being a knucklehead, he used to say, 'Man, get your [expletive] together' and stuff like that. (laughter) It goes a long way when you've earned the respect of players in the league, and truly shows how much I've worked and transformed my game – not just being athletic, but more mentally, too."
On the Bengals' motivation for Sunday's game: "Just finish strong. Of course, the season didn't end up like we wanted it to, but we would like to end on a win at home."
On CB Dre Kirkpatrick and WR Steve Smith Sr. as competitors: "They just compete. That's what great players do. They love and thrive for the challenge and compete. There's going to be some talking. That's just a part of the game."
On where Smith Sr. ranks in the league in terms of competitiveness: "He's at the top, by far."
On if the speculation about head coach Marvin Lewis' future is a distraction for the team:"I don't pay attention to that. I worry about the things that I can control. I don't think coach Lewis is going anywhere, from my standpoint. Deal with things when you have to deal with them and let everything else handle itself."
On the attitude he expects to see from WR Steve Smith Sr. if this upcoming game is his last: "He's going to play hard. He's a guy that loves competition. I expect nothing less."