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Transcripts: Press Conference (1/18)


Opening statement:"Good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. It was another great day for football. Guys are in great spirits [and] enjoyed being out there. We're excited. It's a big challenge [against] a very good opponent – they're hot, they're playing great, and it's the playoffs. I'm excited for our fans. Our fans get a chance to be in [M&T Bank] Stadium and support us. We know that they're going to be amazing like they always are. One last thing – a shoutout to the grounds crew for this week getting us a chance to get out there and practice. That was a yeoman's effort. They did a great job. I was watching them pull the tarp on and off yesterday after practice. It was [only] about five of them for that whole big tarp out there. It's pretty impressive. We have a strong grounds crew. What questions do you have?"

Can you tell at practice that this is a group a couple days away from playing in a playoff game?*(Jamison Hensley)* "You can, because they're sharp. They're sharp. They're on point. They're locked in. I think they have the good combination of stay loose and stay focused, and that's how they've approached it."

Will it be a game-time decision if WR Devin Duvernay and TE Mark Andrews play in the game on Saturday?*(Todd Karpovich)* "It could go there. [Devin] Duvernay looks good. I'd say he's going to play for sure. Mark [Andrews] is still up in the air. Marlon [Humphrey] is a little dicey right now. He hasn't practiced. I don't know if he'll make it. He's probably the person I'm least optimistic about right now."

Is the cold weather as much of an advantage as the crowd noise for Saturday's game?*(Jerry Coleman)* "I just think it's good for us to have a chance to get out and practice in the [cold] temperature. It's a football game. Both teams are going to be ready to play. I don't think it's going to be a determiner. We just have to deal with it as we deal with it and do what we do and try to do it well."

Did the practice plan over the last two weeks with the bye work out as planned for you?*(Pete Gilbert)* "I feel great about the guys. I think the guys have done great. They've worked hard. We had four practices last week. We had our three practices this week. We'll have our walk-through tomorrow. They've been like they've been all season. It hasn't really been different. It's definitely playoff football. They're definitely excited about that, but that's how they've approached their work all year."

What is RB Dalvin Cook's opportunity in the backfield like for Saturday's game?*(David Andrade)* "Dalvin [Cook] will be in there. I think it's going to be a great opportunity for him and for us. We'll be looking forward to seeing how he does. It's new. We haven't seen him out there. Just like you guys haven't seen him, we haven't seen him. We've seen him in practice. He looks good, and he's going to be out there like everybody else trying to do whatever he can do to help us win the game."

Did RB Dalvin Cook have much experience with the mesh point on handoffs coming from a pro style offensive system when he was with the Minnesota Vikings?*(Jonas Shaffer)* "[Dalvin Cook's] been great with [the mesh point]. I think he's done it before, so it hasn't been an issue at all."

Have you thought about what it would be like coaching against your brother, Jim, if he becomes head coach of an NFL team? Do you have a preference as to which NFL conference he should be in?*(Cordell Woodland)* "I don't know what [Jim Harbaugh's] going to do. I'm not sure what Jim's plans are. I think whatever he does, it'll be what's best for him and his family. I know Michigan has been a joy for him to go back to his alma mater. His family loves it there. The players love him. He loves the players, coaches [and] the fan base. I don't know exactly what direction he's going to go. I would think that the [university] President and the Board of Trustees would be doing everything that they can to try and keep him. That'd be priority No. 1 if I was them, but I think at the end he's going to do whatever's best for him and his family. He loves Michigan, but he loves the NFL, too. So, we'll just have to see."

Would you talk to your brother, Jim, and give him advice if he called you?*(Pete Gilbert)* "I think if [Jim Harbaugh] had something .... He knows what he's doing." (laughter) "He's pretty aware."

If your brother, Jim, returns to coach in the NFL, would you prefer that he is or isn't on your opponent schedule?*(Jonas Shaffer)* "Eventually, [Jim Harbaugh's team] will be on the schedule. There's no doubt. Those are always challenging games, because he's such a great coach. His teams are always ready to roll. They always are. They're always well coached. They're always fundamentally sound. They always play super hard. They're always connected emotionally. I think he's the best coach in football. He's a great coach."

If your brother, Jim, is coaching in the same conference as you, would you still have conversations with him?*(Ryan Mink)* "That's a fair question. You would play more often, to your point. That might chance the conversations just a little bit if they're on the schedule soon."

Has TE Mark Andrews surprised you this week with his level of participation in practice?*(Jamison Hensley)* "It's been good to see, I know that. I don't know if surprise is the right word. I probably didn't have any expectations. [We were] just waiting to see when [Mark Andrews] was out there. This is his first week out there in that kind of way. It was encouraging."

Does it make the assignment of preparing for the Houston Texans' offense any more manageable since they are another Shanahan family tree-type offense similar to when you played the San Francisco 49ers?*(Jonas Shaffer)*"There are family trees, to your point. There's a lot of head coaches [and] coordinators in this league who are running that [Shanahan] offense, and also the defense, too, is the same as [the] Seattle [Seahawks'] system that evolved over the last 10 or 12 years. You get to know those systems and how they work, but every different coaching staff puts their spin on it. Every different group of players has a different way of ... They adapt a system for the players differently. You just have to take every team as they come, and every team is unique in how they do it."


On if he's eager to play after the playoff bye week:"Oh, yes, for sure. I better be. We've got two games to get to the Super Bowl. We're looking forward to it. It's the next [game], so it's the biggest of the season, [and] they're only [going] to get bigger from here. We need to win; we're at home."

On if there is a different vibe around the team:"I mean, to me, it's been like kind of the same. We just all want to win, like we've been doing all year. [We're] just sticking together, executing the gameplan and trying to figure out the weather thing right now. But when you're out there, you've just got to go. So, I'm just ready to get out there with my teammates and fight and give them what I've got."

On what he sees from QB C.J. Stroud right now:"[C.J. Stroud] just doesn't look like a rookie quarterback out there. He's making smart decisions with his passing and putting those guys in good situations and not turning it over as much – I think that's good for their side – and he's executing [and] getting the ball out [of] his hand fast. So, for us, we've just got to execute our gameplan and disguise and be on the same page, so we [can] try to get to him."

On having QB C.J. Stroud wrapped up but not being able to get the sacks in Week 1:"Yes, I was coming off the couch, too, that time." (laughter) "Yes, so, as [C.J. Stroud] got better, I got better." (laughter) "Like I said, it's been a long journey throughout the season since the first game. I was coming off the couch, missing tackles, missing sacks. But I've been working [and] getting better throughout the season, and that's what you shoot for. It's a process of getting better and keeping working on your craft throughout the season and see where you end up in December and January. So, we're here now. He got better, we got better, and we're going to see what happens."

On if it means anything to face the Texans – the team that originally drafted him:"To me, it's the next game up. I just want to win, because it's the playoffs; it's bigger than just worrying about the Texans. There is much more at stake. It's either win or go home. And we want to get away with this win, so [that] we can keep fighting for the goal we've been fighting for all year. What you do all of this for is to try to get to that Super Bowl and win it."

On how meaningful playoff games are to him at this stage of his career:"It means a lot. I'm in Year 10, and you never know how many more you've got left. I've been in the game 10 years and haven't been this far; [I] haven't won or gotten a bye – that first-round bye – ever. So, this is big for me and – in my career – where I'm at. I just hope [that] I can continue to help this team and help us get our long-term goal, [which] is to win a Super Bowl. And like I said, we've got to knock the Texans off just to do that."

On what makes this locker room so special:"It's the guys that come to work. Guys come to work looking forward to work. It's not like you're stressed about going in to work. It's a group of guys that have fun with each other – and the coaches – that have a good time and don't mind coming in and putting their head down for a few hours. You'll see most of the guys hang out even when we're done with football practice or with the work for the day. It's just a good group to be around. [We're] having fun. [There's] a lot of energy [and] a lot of love in the locker room, and that's what makes us play together [so] well. We're playing for the guy beside you and somebody you care about, and [we] just leave it all on the field for them."


On what the entire running backs room can bring on Saturday: "First off, they are great human beings, to be honest, great people. Justice [Hill], Gus [Edwards], everybody in that room [are] great people, man. For me, I'm just looking to come add who Dalvin Cook is, just a little flavor to it. Those guys have been productive all year. You have to give credit to those guys. They've been grinding all year, but I'm just looking to come add a little flavor [and] add a couple more plays to help this organization win."

On the greatest challenge trying to learn the new system in two weeks and the magnitude of knowing his first game will be a Divisional playoff game:"Ball is ball. Obviously, the stakes rise. In the playoffs, everything rises up [like] the intensify. Everything rises up, but for me, it was just [about] digging deep into the playbook, because I want to go out there and just play free. I want to just go out there and make plays and be me. With that, you have to be comfortable in what you do. That was big for me, just getting that week off and digging deep into the playbook."

On what it means to play Saturday after being here such a short period of time:"You appreciate people. You learn how to appreciate the little things. For me, I never thought I'd be in a situation like this, but now that I am, I feel like I got put in this position for a reason, just to be around [head coach John] Harbaugh and just this whole building. [They're] treating me like family since I got here, so [they're] just making that easy. When you have a head coach like that, it's kind of easy to go out there and give a thousand percent effort."

On his method to learn the playbook on such short notice and if it's working late into the night:"I have a four-month-old son, so I can't be up too late, but for me, honestly, I'm kind of ... It's kind of easy for me to pick it up. I don't know why, but like, I watch a lot of film. Once I watch, and I kind of put it in my head, I kind of got it, honestly. [I'm] just repping it more and just to be confident with it, but I have my own little strategies I do. I'm not going to put them out there, but I've been digging deep into this thing. I pretty much have a grasp on what's going on."

On if he's ready for a big workload if he's called up to do so: "Yes. It's the playoffs, man. You have to ... I'm dialed up. I'm ready to give it all I have – everything I have in the tank. It's the playoffs, man."

On if there is any extra motivation after his time with the New York Jets:"No. [It's] just a fresh breath of air, to be honest. [It's] a new start, clean slate. [I'm] not looking back; [I'm] looking forward. For me, it's just to go out there and showcase my talent again, just to go out there and put my talent on display and just show the world I'm still him. I'm still that guy, man. I'm just looking for an opportunity, and I got one. I have to take advantage of it."

On if the team has talked about his possible role or workload:"I'm not specifically looking forward to a [having] role or anything. They call 31's number, I'm going to be out there. I'm gone." *(laughter) *"I'm going to be on the field. I'm ready to make a play, but for me though, honestly, Gus [Edwards and] Justice [Hill], they put the work in all year. You have to credit those guys, so whatever my role is, whatever they call upon me [to do], they'll get a thousand percent out of Dalvin."


On if the Super Bowl being held in Las Vegas – his hometown – has any extra significance for him:"Oh, yes. Ever since the offseason – ever since I found out it was in [Las] Vegas – I was like, 'I've got to make it back [home] and play in front of my family.' That would be a cool experience. But right now, our focus is just winning this one game."

On the Texans defensive ends and what he sees from DEs Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson Jr.:"[Jonathan Greenard and Will Anderson Jr.] are good players. They set that edge well. They play a hard and physical game. It's going to be a challenge, but we're up for it."

On if he anticipates the rotation at the tackle spots to continue during the playoffs:"I think you're going to [have to] ask Coach [John Harbaugh] on that. I really don't know going in, but we're prepared for whatever. If they want us to play the whole game, we'll be ready."

On how he and the team feel coming off the bye week:"I feel good. I feel very confident in the work we put in, making sure everyone was still on top of their game [and] making sure they're in good form. We didn't waste this week at all."

On what RB Dalvin Cook brings to this team:"Yes, [Dalvin Cook] is another electric player coming out of the backfield. You've got to worry about his speed [and] his elusiveness, so he's going to give us another edge."

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