Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "We're ready to go. [It's] a nice day for practice; we're looking forward to it. Our guys, we've had a good day so far meeting-wise. We had a couple things come up, I guess it's that time of the year. We have some sickness; Lamar [Jackson] and [Bradley] Bozeman are both sick, so you won't see them there today. They got sent home. It's not COVID; it's just sick. So, those are the two main things in terms of that. We have the guys coming back who are coming back. They have a good chance to be back. We'll see how they practice. If they practice all week, that would be a good sign. That's where we're at. What questions do you have?"
Is there anything you can say about the situation with the decision with RB Le'Veon Bell? (Jerry Coleman) "I think it's a numbers thing. Le'Veon [Bell] was doing a great job. We had a great conversation up here. He and I have been talking a lot. I really appreciate him and just everything about him – professionalism, attitude, work ethic. Being around him is a joy every single day. He's really a great guy, and he helped us. We have some guys coming back, so numbers wise … There's nothing clear cut about any decision at all. He can still play. We'll just see where we're at going forward. Things can turn still, one way or another."
OLB Odafe Oweh, obviously he's had a lot of production. He also can do a lot of different things because he's such a versatile player. How much fun has that been trying to figure out how might you use him this week, just because he can do so many things? (Pete Gilbert) "Yes, we try to. He's done a lot of things. He's dropped for us. Of course, he's rushed. He's playing the run well. He's setting the edge well. He's playing like a spy-type thing; we use him in a lot of games. [He's] a very versatile player, and I'm excited about the future and present. I'm more interested in the present, but I'm excited about where he's going to go going forward, too."
LB Robert Quinn and LB Khalil Mack, two game wreckers for the Bears [with] 12 sacks. Khalil Mack is coming back this week; he missed the last two games. What are you seeing from their pass rush and how effective they've been? (Todd Karpovich) "Well, it starts with those two guys [Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack]. That's how they do it. They're not a big blitz team. They will blitz you a little bit, but basically, [it's] those two guys, and they move them around a little bit. They come off the edge for the most part. They run a lot of games and twists inside with those guys, and they have an inside presence, too. [Akiem] Hicks is a dominant player in the inside in terms of pass rush. [Eddie] Goldman is a very stout player against the run, and also a bull rusher in the pass. So, that front is really good."
When you said with RB Le'Veon Bell that things can turn, does that mean there's a possibility that he could come back in some capacity – whether the 53 [-man roster] or practice squad? (Jamison Hensley) "That's what I was trying to say. We're happy with him. He did a great job. His attitude was great. He's helped us as a player. So, yes. Who knows what way? … If it's that or whatever it might be situationally, we'll just see how it goes. But we'd be open to that. We would like that, but he may have other opportunities to play other places, too. So, we'll just have to see."
Regarding OLB Odafe Oweh and all rookies, really, do you find the notion of a rookie wall? This year, you've had the Bye Week and kind of a mini–Bye Week [after playing on Thursday Night Football], but it's a 17-game season. How does that play out over 17 games? (Bo Smolka) "We always try to ignore that, because I think it's more psychological than anything, but the season is tough, and it's challenging for everybody – rookies, or veterans, or coaches, or anybody else. How it's going to play out for a 17-game season? I don't know. We're just going to have to see how that goes. We just know we have to play … We have to put our best foot forward each week – that's all we really have to think about. So, whether it's a rookie or a veteran, everybody getting ready to play this game, this Sunday, against this team, because we need this win – that's really what we're focusing on."
We don't talk to you about DE Calais Campbell a lot, because it always seems like he always plays his 40 or 50 snaps, and he's always good. Just as a coach, how much of a treasure is it to have a guy like that that you just don't have to worry about? (Childs Walker) "It really is. I mean, that's just … You do. You think about guys, but I don't think about him too much, other than being appreciative. I told him last night [when] he was walking out … We were chatting, because he was grabbing dinner, and I was in the cafeteria. I just said, 'Hey, man. I really appreciate you.' He sat down ... He was waiting for his food, so he had to sit down for a minute somewhere. (laughter) So, he happened to sit next to me, which I appreciated. But really what you just said is exactly it: He's playing great. He's a leader. He's out here every day. He's in the weight room every day. He mentors the young guys every day. That's the kind of guy [he is], and I think that'll be his legacy."
As you prepare for the Bears, do you see any of QB Lamar Jackson in QB Justin Fields? Is it easier to prepare for a mobile quarterback having to see QB Lamar Jackson every day? (Kirk McEwen)"He's just his own kind of quarterback. All of these guys are very unique in their own different ways. He has a strong arm, a very strong arm. He throws the ball very hard. He throws the ball downfield quite a bit. He throws a lot of intermediate routes, and then, he can take off and run, too. They have some quarterback driven runs, some designed runs that they use, but he also takes off in the pocket and gets yards, too. All the things that he brings to the table, that's what we're looking at really hard to try to defend."
Speaking of pass rushers, there's been a lot of talk about OLB Justin Houston's leadership and what he's done for the younger guys. His play on the field, just his pass rush and productivity, can you talk about what you've seen and how pleased you've been with that? (Ryan Mink)"Yes, it was great to see him get his 100th sack. That was really great, and he was excited about that. That's really been it. He's a really good football player. He's a really good pass rusher, sure, but he's also a really good football player. He plays the run well. He drops occasionally for us in our system. He's great to be around every day. He always has a really good demeanor, and he works really hard. So, we appreciate him. There's a reason these guys are so successful for so long in this league. Once you kind of suspect that they're that kind of guy, and then you get them here and you see how they work every day, you're confirming that really is what it takes. For the young guys to watch guys like that and say, 'Oh, if I want to be in the league and I want to have that kind of success for a long time, I'll do it like he does it.'"
Are you surprised there are guys in this league that don't know there are ties? Is that something you talk about ever with your team? (Jerry Coleman)"Yes, we talk about that with our team. We do overtime situations. Go in there and poll them. You'll probably find a few guys in there that maybe forgot; I hope not. But I'd like to think that our guys do know that there are ties in the regular season, but not in the playoffs. That it's a 10-minute overtime and that the first touchdown wins on the first drive, and then after that, it's sudden death, and that there is no spot and choose. … Take that for what it's worth." (laughter)
We do appreciate you letting us know about QB Lamar Jackson, because now we don't have to be like, "What's going on with Lamar?" (Harbaugh: "[SVP of Communications] Chad [Steele] had mentioned that to me, actually, coming into the press conference.") With RB Latavius Murray, we saw him working out a little bit off to the side. What do you think his chances are coming back this week? (Jamison Hensley)"I think it'll be based on practice. He's in the walk-through. He's going to practice, and we'll see how he does."
You go from a pretty aggressive defense against Miami to a defense in Chicago that's a little less blitz happy. The differences between those two, and what do you kind of expect after you maybe didn't execute as well as you wanted to on Thursday night? (Jonas Shaffer)"You have to take the defense that you're going to see for what it is, and it's a very physical front seven. It's a press, physical playing edge outside guys and the secondary, too. The safeties are very aggressive downhill. So, it's going to be a very physical football game because that's how they play. That's the game that they want to play, so that's what we're getting ready for. In terms of the blitzing and scheme and all of that, we certainly have to be prepared for it. I would expect them to blitz based on what they saw Thursday. So, we're preparing for that as well."
Earlier in the season, there were a couple questions about the middle linebackers, specifically ILB Patrick Queen. How do you think he's been playing the last few weeks? (Cordell Woodland)"I think he's really stepped it up. He's playing really well. He's playing a little more of the WILL position, and I think he's kind of simplified, in his mind, what his responsibilities are. Of course, [inside linebackers coach] Rob [Ryan] is doing a great job with him. But I'm really happy with the way he's playing, both verse the run and in the pass drops. Both zone and man coverage – he's looked good."
Is Jim [Harbaugh] a resource at all, given that he's just so recently removed from Ohio State, and he faced QB Justin Fields [while coaching at Michigan]. It sounds like maybe a reach, but is that possible to deal with QB Justin Fields? (Pete Gilbert)"Not really. That's … No. I mean, Jim [Harbaugh] is a resource for a lot of things. We talk a lot of football and I get a lot of great ideas from him, no doubt. He's the best coach I know in football right now. But specifically, for that, not as much."
Did he give you any advice for avoiding heaters? I saw his pants caught on fire. There's a little history with S Ed Reed with that here. As we get into the cold months, any advice on avoiding that? (Ryan Mink)"Don't get too close to the heaters, or something like that."
TE Mark Andrews
On how to put away what occurred on Thursday night, while still trying to identify what went wrong:"Just for us, we were able to come in the next day, see the film, but losing sucks. So, it's all about trying to find the mistakes and correct them, and I think that we've been super honest in this building about things that we've been really good at and some things that we need to work at. We've got a driven, focused group that's ready to go this week against the Chicago Bears."
On why the team has historically been so resilient and able to overcome bad losses:"Well, one, we've got a lot of dogs. We've got a lot of great players – guys that enjoy being here each and every day and working. We've got coaches that work hard and try to put us in the best positions possible. And like I said, we're honest with each other. We know the things that we're doing well and not, and so, for us, just looking in the mirror and working hard, playing hard and loving the game of football. Usually, good things work out if you do that."
On if he's confident the team has the tactical answers to handle a Cover 0 defense:"Yes, 100%. 100%. I have full trust in everything that we're doing, and I'm excited about just growing as an offense. You start the year, and the defenses change just depending on how you're playing that year. I know, throughout the last three years, every year has been a little bit different with the things that we've been seeing. And so, for blitz and zero [Cover 0], we're going to continue to grow, get better and attack. So, I'm excited about that."
On why it's not just as simple as throwing a screen pass against a heavy-blitz look:"Yes, it just depends. It depends, maybe, where their DBs [defensive backs] are lined up. Maybe they have poppers – stuff like that. But yes, you're right; we hit a couple screens for big ones. Like I said, we've got to attack a little bit more, which I'm excited [about]."
On if he watched some games this weekend and his thoughts on still sitting atop the AFC North:"I watched a couple, yes. I watched that Cleveland game, some other games. It's awesome that we're still in control of our own destiny – that's all you can really ask for – but it's going to be a tough division. Every game … We haven't played many division games, so every game matters at this point in the year."
On the Bears' defense:"Yes, yes, they've got a great defense. They're going to be flying around. They're fast, physical. We have our hands full this week, so we're preparing, and we're going to be ready to go, but it's going to be a dog fight. We're going to be ready for them, though."
On what TE Nick Boyle will bring to the offense when he returns to the field:"Just the way he plays, the physicality that he brings … He's a smart player, but he plays hard every snap, and he's able to move guys off the ball five, 10, 15 yards. It's like adding another Pat Ricard. Those type of guys, you can't replace, and so, I think it's going to help spark our run game. And again, it's having a veteran that's been here for a long time. He's really good at his craft, and so, I'm excited for him to get back. That's a huge addition for our offense."
On TE Eric Tomlinson's impact:"He's awesome. He's awesome. He goes to work every day, works hard, but he's really, really good. He's extremely underrated, I think, throughout this league. He's really good at what he does, and I think there [are] a lot of similarities between him and Nick [Boyle]. But just having all these guys, all these tight ends, especially in a tight end-, kind of, centric offense, I think we're going to be able to do a lot of things."
On the idea of potentially going with a little bit more no-huddle to spark the offense early in the game:"I just think every game is different, every game has the little different things that we want to do; maybe go a little hurry-up, or we may not. You never know. But 'G-Ro' [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] is doing a great job of … We have full trust in what he's doing, what he's calling. He's an offensive genius – just his schemes and everything he's thinking of – and so, we're just going to go out there, run the plays that are called and do our jobs."
On if he believes that WR Marquise Brown is a much more challenging player for defenses to account for now as opposed to two years ago:"Yes. You get in the league and, just like anything, you grow, you mature, you learn, and just his route-running ability, just his confidence, again, his maturity … Throughout the years, he's grown, and so, I think, with that comes production, and he's been producing. He's been dangerous all year long, making big-time plays, and he's a guy that's … Again, he's only going to get better and better. I'm excited for him."
On how offensive coordinator Greg Roman helps the team rebound after a tough game:"It's tough, because we're 6-3, right? So, obviously, it wasn't the game that we wanted to have, but it's not an end all be all, if you know what I mean. There are a lot of positives that we've had this year, and those are the things that we're looking at, we're growing on, we're getting better at. And we're looking at the negatives, and we're going to fix that. And so, once you do that throughout the year, you become a complete team. I think that we all understand where we're at, and he [offensive coordinator Greg Roman] knows that. We've talked, we've had the meetings."
On if COVID-19 remains on his mind and on the minds of others on the team:"Yes, it's always got to be on your mind. This is the day and age that we live in. You saw last year – we had like 20-something guys get sick – and so, I think, usually, the healthier teams are going to win. So, if we can limit the COVID[-19], limit sickness, especially this time of the year, [with] flu and all that, that's only going to help us in achieving our goals."
OLB Justin Houston
On if he received QB Jacoby Brissett's jersey after the game in which he reached his 100*th*-career sack with a takedown of the Miami QB:"I did. We switched jerseys after the game, so I was able to get the jersey." (Reporter: "Is he [Jacoby Brissett] doing alright?") "Yes, he's good."
On if he thought about waiting a bit to exchange jerseys with QB Jacoby Brissett, given that Brissett got injured during the play:(laughter) "No, because he knew I wasn't the guy that hit his knee. I was actually trying to turn him away from it, and then 'Big Rook' [Odafe Oweh] came in and hit him on the knee, so it wasn't me."
On if he'll frame QB Jacoby Brissett's jersey:"I'm going to. I think I'm going to give it to my son, because he's been on my head about getting to the 100-sack club, so I think it's going to be a gift to him one of these days." (laughter)
On if it was odd that the QB got injured on his 100*th*-career sack and if it prevented him from celebrating:"So, I didn't realize he was in pain until like after. I was getting off the ground … All I know is the crowd … The only thing I was hearing [was], 'Ball, ball, ball!' I thought everybody was trying to go after the ball, so I didn't know he was hurt until after I got off the ground and celebrated. Then, I realized he was still there. I checked on him, though. He was good." (laughter)
On what his son said to him about joining the 100-sack club:"He was happy. I've still got some more work to do, so he's not too happy. He's going to work the crap out of me. (laughter) We've got some more goals to reach, so we're still working." (Reporter: "What's the number he's throwing at you?") "130. He said you can't retire until you get 130 [sacks]." (laughter) So, I'm praying, somehow, God makes that happen." (laughter)
On his relationship with DE Calais Campbell, as two veteran guys who bring it every week:"I just think it's a blessing to even be on the field with a guy like that. He's sacrificed so much, and the way he plays … He doesn't get enough credit for the way he plays, and if you watch him, even in pass-rush situations, he's got three guys on him. So, it's easy for us to be free and for other guys to run through the gap, because he's taking up three people at a time. When you've got somebody like that, it's a blessing."
On what it means for him to be doing extra work after practice with the young guys:"It's good. I'm just trying to teach them good habits. When you're out there working, it's muscle memory, mainly. You're just working your hands and getting used to using your hands, so when it's time to actually use your hands, it happens naturally, [and] it's just second nature."
On how OLB Odafe Oweh can turn his high number of pressures into sacks, and how frustrating is it to almost get a sack:"It's very frustrating, but that's the game of football. You've just got to keep hunting, you've got to keep going, play in and play out, because you never know when an opportunity is going to reveal [itself]. You've just got to be ready when the opportunity comes."
On the key to bouncing back and moving past a tough game:"I use it as motivation; [I] don't go in the tank. I think you've got to be critical of yourself. Everybody has got to be critical, and you just go and look and study and see what you did wrong as a player, and critique yourself, and find out ways you can get better and help this team."
On QB Justin Fields:"I think he's a great athlete playing quarterback. He can make all the throws, and he's got the wheels, so I think our hands are full. He's getting really comfortable back there, throwing that ball. You can see, every week, he's getting better and better at throwing it. So, hopefully this week, he doesn't progress. (laughter) He was off [on bye] last week, so I hope he stays off this week."
On how tough it is to set the edge on a mobile quarterback:"Rushing a quarterback like that, it [takes] a unit. You've got to do it as a group. It's not individual, it's no one-man show. It's got to be done as a team, because everybody has got to be in their rush lane to keep this guy [Justin Fields] back there and make him … You can't give him a vision. Any type of hole, vision, he's going to hit it like a running back, so we've just got to make him sit back there in that pocket and beat you throwing that ball."
On how pleased he's been with his own level of play this season and what number of sacks he thinks he can get to:"I'm not pleased right now. I'm a little disappointed in where I'm at. I know the work me and my son put in this offseason. We put in a lot of work, and … I just know it [can] be like this. You've just got to ride the wave and continue to work. Don't get down on yourself. It's a long season, so it can change at any moment, and that's what I'm praying and hoping for, and just continue to work."
On working through almost getting a sack, but not quite getting there:"This is nothing new to me. I've had a lot of seasons like this. You just, like I said, keep hunting and keep working, and don't get down on yourself, because you never know when it can change. I know turnovers come in bunches. Sacks, they come in bunches. When it rains, it pours, and you just hope it rains soon." (laughter)
On if he's seeing a different type of successful NFL quarterback than he saw earlier in his career:"I think all the quarterbacks now are faster. When I first got in the league, there were more 'stand-in-the-pocket' guys that didn't really have speed. Now, everybody's got speed at the quarterback [position]. So, even though they might not be talked about, all quarterbacks are mobile, and they can run now. It's a different game."
On how practicing against QB Lamar Jackson helps him prepare for mobile quarterbacks, such as QB Justin Fields:"I guess it helps on your rushing angles. It teaches you to rush under control, because if you rush, and you're going back there wild, all out of control, and don't have any balance, you're not going to get him. So, you want to rush and be under control when you're getting back there."
On if he's familiar with Bears Head Coach Matt Nagy's offense, given their overlap in Kansas City, and if he'll share anything with the team:"I don't think the apple falls too far from the tree, meaning him and Coach [Andy] Reid, they're pretty similar, so you'll see a lot of plays that he runs, that Kansas City runs. They've got different teams now, and you can see his little touch to it, versus Coach Reid's touch. It's a little different, but [they're] pretty much the same."
OLB Odafe Oweh
On how excited he was for OLB Justin Houston getting his 100th sack: "I was so excited, because he's been chasing it this whole season. So, for him to finally get it, it was big. We have goals before every game. So, before every game, we would just say, 'Justin is getting his 100th sack. He's getting his 100th sack.' So, for him to actually do it in this game was big time. It was big, too, because I thought I was going to get the sack at that point. But he got it; he took it away. I celebrated with him. It's just so crazy that I'm playing with someone that has 100 sacks. That's crazy. So, I'm very happy for him. I'm happy for his legacy, and I hope he gets to 130 [sacks], or something like that." (laughter)
On if DE Calais Campbell serves as a model for how to conduct himself as a professional: "Yes. Calais [Campbell], he's the ultimate man. He just carries himself with so much respect and so much … His presence. He has a presence with the type of person he is. He's just so respectable. He has so much knowledge for the game, and outside the game, how to handle yourself as a pro and everything. Even in games, like when we run our stunts in games, he'll just tell me the right way to run it, [and] he'll tell me the right places to run it. He's just smart. I lean on him for a lot of things, and I'm happy I have him."
On what it's been like lining up in three-technique: "It's just something I'm trying to work on for the future. I want to be a diverse pass rusher; I don't want to have to just rush on the edge. So, I'm continuing trying to get to the QB in different ways, whether that's being in a three-tech [technique], or over the center, or even on the edge. So, I would love to just stay on the edge, but I know it'll only help me grow by rushing as a three-tech [technique]."
On the difference between rushing in space and having to rush inside: "You just said it, the space. It's just knowing that you have to win right away. They move less on the inside, so you really have to try to move their feet, get skinny and get vertical fast, too. Whereas on the edge, it's more angles, cutting up the space fast, but you also know you have the edge, and you have an inside move, too. It's kind of weird. It's low-key the same thing, but there are just little differences that you have to be cognizant of."
On if he feels like he could potentially hit a rookie wall: "I'm just continuing to play. I'm just continuing to take everything the offense gives me and try to process it and make plays. Like I said, we don't believe in the rookie wall here. We just … You see adversity, and you just keep on pushing and keep on working to try to get better. We're on the second half of the season, and it's just time to ramp it up because it's playoff ball now. So, you have to raise your level of play, because everyone else is, too. So, there's no rookie wall – no."
On QB Justin Fields: "He's a great athlete, a very underrated athlete. He loves to extend plays. He has a superhero mentality where he wants to put the team on his back. He's tough to tackle. He's a good quarterback. I have a great relationship with Justin [Fields], but I know it's going to be a battle. He's up and coming, too, so he has stuff to prove. That's dangerous, so we have to account for that."
On if he sees differences from watching QB Justin Fields on film now in the NFL compared to a year ago at Ohio State: "Yes, he's just more confident. I feel like that's the case for a lot of guys that are playing well right now. He's just confident. He knows who he is. He knows how to read a lot better. [He] reads defenses a lot better. He's just understanding what type of athlete he is and how he can use that to get ahead and be successful. So, I see that in his game now."
On the competition between him and former Penn State teammate and Cowboys' rookie LB Micah Parsons: "It's just always how it's been. I told Micah [Parsons] that, 'It's always been between me and you in terms of competition.' When we were at Penn State, he was the only one who could push me, and I was the only one who could push him. So, we're just trying to carry it into the league. So, whether that's in QB pressures … He's got me in sacks right now, so I have to ramp that up. (laughter) But I told him to just keep going. I'm proud of him. I'm happy for everything he's doing and for his [Defensive] Rookie of the Year campaign, but I told him I'm right there with him. So, I'm going to keep on trying to do everything I can do, too." (laughter)