SPECIAL TEAMS COORDINATOR CHRIS HORTON
Opening statement: "Good to see everyone today. Hope everyone's doing well. We had a good Bye Week. Our guys are back. We're working, and we're ready to get this thing going. Questions?"
How do you prepare the returners for bad weather conditions, as they are expected in the forecast on Sunday?*_(Jeff Zrebiec)_* "It's just one of those things that we're going to have to trust our guys with their technique just fielding that ball, but from a snapper to a hold standpoint, there are ways we can work that by wetting the footballs. It's a little bit harder to get that ball wet and then get it to the returners. It's just one of those things if we utilize our fundamentals when fielding the ball, we're going to be OK."
Has there been anything in your self-scouting of your special teams unit that has stood out to you to advance going forward?*_(Pete Gilbert) _*"I think one of the biggest things I really looked at [was] I just wanted to see what was causing some of these punt coverage issues. I think it just went back to us just fully executing the fundamentals of that phase [like] being in the right [coverage] lanes, having the right leverages and guys just going out and making the play. That's really been the biggest thing for us. Other than that, I think there's opportunities when we start getting … Again, the weather's changing. We'll get some opportunities for the return game [and] just being able to maximize those opportunities to set our offense up with good field position."
How has the chemistry between LS Tyler Ott, P/H Jordan Stout and K Justin Tucker progressed throughout the season?*_(Valerie Preactor)_* "I think it's been good. When Tyler [Ott] got here, [Tyler Ott, Jordan Stout and Justin Tucker] spent a lot of time really working hard getting Tyler caught up to what we do to our standard just from that snapping standpoint. He's a veteran guy. I think he understood. He's snapped in this league for a long time. As far as their chemistry between those three guys, they're doing a great job. Obviously, we've had some missed field goals, but those things are technical things. Some of those things – that 59-yarder, that 61-yarder – when you look at those kicks ... But other than that, I think these guys are doing a great job for us."
Do you have a surplus of talent at special teams, because of the injuries that other players have had and having to call up others from the practice squad?*_(Kyle Phoenix)_* "I don't look into it that way. I've always looked at it as whoever's out there, those guys get an opportunity to go play. Let's go execute. They've been here long enough. They understand how we play. Obviously, as those things happen, maybe the level of talent might drop off a little bit, but those guys can still go out there and execute the way we play football. It's the National Football League, and I tell them, 'You're here for a reason. Let's go play football.'"
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE MACDONALD
How was the bye week? Were there any key takeaways that you took out of it that you feel like you can take into this next stretch of games?*_(Ryan Mink) _*"Yes, it was great. Number one, just kind of recouping and kind of recalibrating where we're at and where we want to go. The things that I talked about last time, we were able to get those things [done]. And the good thing about this week is, now, as we're kind of introducing the Rams and the things that they do, [we're] also [doing it] through the lens of our self-scout findings with the guys. So, good feedback on there, as well."
The secondary has been playing at a high level. Now you get CB Marlon Humphrey possibly back in the lineup. What does he add to that? What does he give you guys, as far as depth and playmaking ability?*_(Todd Karpovich)_* "You guys know Marlon [Humphrey], and Marlon at his best is good as they come. So, I'm glad that he's feeling better, and he's trying to get up to speed. But he looks good right now out there, for sure."
What do you think of the challenge of trying to contain the big plays in the passing game with the Rams? They throw a lot of deep crosses. Everybody talks about WRs Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp, but we know that WR Tutu Atwell goes deep as well.*_(Cordell Woodland)_* "That's the million-dollar question right there – is how they marry their run and their pass game with the actions and the movements on early downs. It's definitely a big challenge of what you're trying to take away at any given moment. So, [the Rams] do it just as good as anybody in the league, and a lot of it looks the same with the guys, so a lot of it comes down to our communication, diagnosing the play and then obviously handling our responsibilities. But with the formations that they create and staying in the same personnel, it's a little bit unique compared to a lot of teams that we've played this year."
Considering WR Odell Beckham Jr. has played with the Rams, do you guys talk to him about the way that they do things over there offensively?*_(Cordell Woodland)_* "Not really. We haven't really talked to Odell [Beckham Jr.] about them and how they operate. [We] probably should, I guess. But no, I haven't talked to him about it." (laughter)
What is it about WRs Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp and these guys who didn't have the measurables coming out of college, but yet they come on and are just unbelievable in the NFL? What do you see? Is it schematic? Why have they excelled so much?*_(Pete Gilbert)_* "The things that pop off the screen to me that are unique to most teams is these guys [Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp] do it all, so they have our respect. They throw their hat in there on the run game. They're basically used like an extension of the tight ends in the run game; all the formations are very condensed. Not all receivers are willing to do that and do it effectively. They're able to do that. It's very unselfish of them, which speaks to their program and how they operate there. Then obviously in the pass game, they're able to get to the spots they need to get to. I don't know how fast they're going, but they get to the right spots to me, and obviously [they're] great players and are able to finish plays and [catch] the ball in traffic. So, [we] definitely have our hands full with those two."
Head Coach John Harbaugh talked about how, during the bye week, the coaching staff had some time to not just focus on the Rams, but do some advanced stuff, as well. With the connections to the Shanahan Tree of coaching and with San Francisco and Miami coming up, is anybody looking at this as some kind of litmus test for the stuff that is ahead, as well?*_(Jonas Shaffer)_* "I wouldn't call it a litmus test, because it's such a week-to-week thing, and it's hard to say, 'Hey, we're going to do these things [however] many weeks from now,' just because the team changes, and what you feel like you're good at is just kind of a constant evolution. However, it is good to know what's coming down the pike. But I can assure you [that the] vast majority of our attention [had] been on the Rams last week, for sure."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD MONKEN
How would you assess the offense at this point in the season?*_(Cordell Woodland)_* "I think we've come a long way from the beginning of the year in terms of process. We've been doing things better, but we still have a long way to go in terms of just being consistent. But, there's a lot of good. There's a lot of things we are doing well. Sometimes in the bye week, as you assess things, you have to be careful to not overreact, because you do want to clean up some of the things that you think you have a chance to look at and get better at and assess where you're at, but remember some of the things you're really good at and try to build on that."
We did not see QB Lamar Jackson at practice. Is he dealing with an illness?*_(Jamison Hensley) _*"I think that question is for Coach [John] Harbaugh. It's not my place to speak on players that are or aren't at practice."
What goes into scheming against the Los Angeles Rams' pass rush, particularly against DT Aaron Donald?*_(Kyle Phoenix) _*"What a tremendous player. It's a challenge just like every week in this league for a player of [Aaron Donald's] caliber and the guys around him that have really picked up their play. It's a real challenge. They do a great job schematically. They're well-coached. They play hard. They play well connected together, which is important. It'll be a real challenge [on] Sunday."
How much can weather affect your offensive gameplan, with rain projected in the forecast on Sunday?*_(Childs Walker)_* "I think weather affects a number of things, but we're still [a] decent amount of time out, obviously, until you get there …. Again, you're anticipating rain that there's a chance you're going to get wind, so I would anticipate it in your game-planning and certainly your play-calling."
How much has going against DT Justin Madubuike at practice helped you prepare for facing DT Aaron Donald, as there have been some comparisons between the two?*_(Pete Gilbert)_* "I think that's a good 'comp' from an internal player. We've played a good number of edge guys from Myles Garrett to Khalil Mack to T.J. Watt. It seems like we've played against a good number of edge guys [who are] top end [and] elite, and now we have [another] chance. They move [Aaron Donald] around. [On] third downs, you'll see Aaron on the edge. Again, he's a heck of a player. They have a number of good players around him, that's for sure. It's a real challenge, but going up against Justin [Madubuike] is certainly a good 'comp.'"
DE/OLB JADEVEON CLOWNEY
On if he knows what outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith was alluding to by saying he has come up with a new move:"Not quite, but I have worked on making my moves a lot better since [outside linebackers coach Chuck Smith] got here. I've been working with the other guys up front. So, it's nothing really new; [I'm] just getting better at doing them, so that's probably what he meant."
On if S Kyle Hamilton's fire, passion and physicality stand out to him:"Of course. The guy [Kyle Hamilton] plays like his hair [is] on fire. He's all over the field, sideline to sideline, and I love it. I love playing with him because of the way he plays the game. He's physical; he can run up and hit you; he can cover you. He can do just about anything out there, and I just like playing with players like that."
On how important it will be to get pressure on Rams QB Matthew Stafford this weekend:"It's very important. I feel like, every week we play in a game, it's important to get pressure on the quarterback. We take pride in that up front. We're just going to try to do what we can do up front and get after [Matthew Stafford]."
On if he feels like what he's accomplished and what he can still accomplish this year could make for one of his most memorable seasons in the NFL:"I hope so. It's just early – too early – to tell. We have a lot of season left. [The] playoffs [are] around the corner. I just want to continue to play and continue to be out there. That's my goal this year – to play in every game – and I said if I do that, I know I was going to have a great season. I just want to continue to be out there on the field and be available for my teammates and my coaches, so I'm working on that right now."
On why he thinks he's been such a good fit from a personal enjoyment and production standpoint: "I'm just comfortable, and [defensive coordinator] Mike [Macdonald] puts us in great positions to make plays. The guy knows what he's doing out there [when he's] lining us up. So, when you have a coach like that … When quarterbacks pump the ball, it gives us an extra time to get there. We're making plays up front. That's all you can ask for – playing with a defensive line like this and a great linebacker corp."
On why he thinks the guys who were added later, like him, CB Ronald Darby, CB Arthur Maulet and OLB Kyle Van Noy, have been the finishing touches for this defense:"I can't tell you that, honestly. All I know is, I come to work every day and prepare, and [I] try to do what they ask of me and go out there and execute the gameplan at the end of the week and hopefully come out with a 'dub.' That's all I can do."
On how he feels physically at this point in the year and after the Bye Week:"I feel pretty good. I wish we didn't have [that] Bye. I wish we would have kept that thing rolling." (laughter) "I was just in the groove, and we had to stop and start back up. But I feel pretty good. I'm looking forward to this game and getting back out there and getting going."
On how difficult it is to be relentless every single time he's on the field:"Like I said, we have a great group that rotates, so when I get my opportunities to go out there, I try not to get tired and just give you everything I have. [I] just put my foot on the gas [for] however many plays they ask me to play in a row, and if I'm going to get tired, it'll be after the game. I just try to take advantage of my opportunities, so that's basically what I go out there and do. I said I might [only] have five or six [plays] in a row or whatever, but while I'm out here, let me go crazy [and] go balls to the wall so I can try to make a play. That's what [I've been] doing."
On what it's been like having pressure throughout his career and how he endures it: "I feel like I put that on myself – the pressure on myself – after the season I had last year. I got hurt in the beginning of that season [last year]. I didn't say anything. I played in Cleveland with kind of like a bad elbow for that whole season, and it didn't turn out like I wanted to, after the year I had the first year I was there with 9 sacks. [I] turned around and had that bad year, so I came in this season like, 'I just want to be available and be healthy through these games. I'm going to go ahead and try to dominate like I know I can,' and I put a lot of pressure on myself. I take pride in that. I know people count me out, because I'm 30 [years old] or whatever they want to say, but I just go out there and play my game and give you what I've got."
On his process to stay healthy and reach his goal of playing every game:"I feel like this team and Coach [John] Harbaugh do a good job of taking care of the guys during the week. [It isn't] too much; it's just enough to get the work in just to get us prepared for the game, and he [does] a very good job of that."
On if getting double-digit sacks this season is important to him:"Of course. [I want] probably more [than 10 sacks] at this point. I want more. Just staying hungry, right now, for me, is the key. I have a lot of football left. [We have] five regular season games [left]. I just want to go out there [and] be great for my teammates and my coaches."
S KYLE HAMILTON
On the Rams' receiving corps: "I've known of Puka [Nacua] since we were in high school. We both played in the All-American [Bowl] together. He's come into his own. I don't know what round he was drafted, but wherever it was, it wasn't really enough. He's doing a great job this season. We're watching [his] film. He's doing a bunch all over the field. A lot of [their receivers] are. They're pretty versatile all over the place. Obviously, Kyren [Williams] – I went to school [at Notre Dame] with him. He's one of my boys, and he's been going crazy this year, too. So, they provide a bunch of problems on their side of the ball, and it's going to be a challenge, but I think we have the guys to do it."
On how much Rams RB Kyren Williams is the key to their offense: "[Kyren Williams] can do a bunch. He can pass [protect] if you need him to. He's obviously going to run the ball. He's a great pass catcher out of the backfield. I've seen it since 2019 [when] we both came in as freshmen at Notre Dame. [We were] pretty much best friends the whole time there, so it's going to be cool to go against him. We were texting earlier this week just talking about how fun it's going to be. We've been looking forward to it, but at the same time, I have to look at him as a running back that we're playing [and] scouting him – what he likes to do, what he doesn't like to do. I feel like the defense, as a whole, has a good grasp of our gameplan [and] what we're going to do going into it."
On if knowing RB Kyren Williams so well gives him an edge: "Not really, I don't think. I think we're going to go harder than we were before, because we're going to have bragging rights in the group chat. He's a great guy [and] a great player. I'm glad to see him doing well this year."
On if he likes playing in bad weather as a defensive guy or if he likes playing in nice weather: "It's easy to be like, 'That's football weather,' but I think football weather is 70 [degrees] and sunny and not a cloud in the sky. I'm from Georgia, so I'm not really used to the cold weather stuff, but once I got to Notre Dame, I grew out of that pretty quickly. It is what it is. There's been rain games this year. We've all played in rain games, so it's just another element to it, but it's not going to change a whole bunch."
On if he feels restored after the Bye Week: "Yes, definitely. At the beginning of the season, when you see [that] the Bye [Week] is Week 13, you're like, 'Alright, it's going to be a bit of a grind to get to the Bye,' but now that we've gotten here to this point, we seem pretty good with where we're at. It's awesome to have that little break going into the final stretch of the season, going to the playoffs and hopefully to make a deep run. I just went home [and] chilled for a little bit. [I] just got football off my mind, and now I'm reset and ready to get back to it."
On pass game coordinator/secondary coach Chris Hewitt saying, "Don't let that baby face fool you – he'll rip your head off,' where that comes from and how he flips that switch: "I just shaved this morning, whatever [facial hair] I had. I can't really grow a beard, for real. I guess I've always kind of had a baby face, and I've had people tell me since I got my haircut [recently] that I look like [I'm] 16 [years old]. It's always been a thing. I blame it on my dad. He doesn't have facial hair. That may be it, but it might be an advantage. Somebody might think I'm soft or something."
On where his aggression comes from: "It's really the only way to play, especially in this league [and] at my position. [If you're] the safety or nickel, you're in the mix a lot, and guys across the ball, they're going to be probably the same way, so I need to match that if not exceed it every play. It's just controlled aggression at the end of the day and applying when I need to. Being cool and calm when I need to at the same time, but there's definitely a time and place for it."
On if RB Kyren Williams will see his aggressive side on Sunday: "On the field, [Kyren Williams] is just a running back at that point. That's my boy, obviously, but he's going to be feeling the same way."
On the nickel blitzes being successful and how he feels when that play is called knowing he's going to be the guy that blitzes: "It's fun. I didn't blitz that much in college and in high school. That's the only level I've kind of been blitzing at, and it's fun. [You] back there, and the only job you have is to go get a sack [and] go hit a quarterback. So, I feel like it's kind of like pressing somebody in basketball. [You] hopefully make them nervous, make [them make] a bad decision [or] something like that, because when we disguise our blitzes really well, it's kind of a surprise to the quarterback when we do end up blitzing. So, we try to keep them on their toes and show our blitzes and get out of it and stuff like that. As a nickel, I'm sure you can ask 'Art' [Arthur Maulet] the same thing; he'll tell you that it's fun."
On if there's any excitement to CB Marlon Humphrey being healthy and for the secondary to have so much depth and versatility:"Yes, definitely. I feel like it's been kind of the theme this whole year. Guys [were coming] in and out at all three levels [on defense] and [on] offense at the same time. It just shows how deep we are. Guys come in and do a great job. Geno [Stone] is playing at a Pro Bowl level and, obviously, before the season, nobody was expecting him to start, but he was called upon, and he delivered. So, props to him [and] props to other guys that stepped up as well, like Ronald Darby; he's been playing really well. At the same time, it sucks for Marlon [Humphrey] and Marcus [Williams], [because] those guys went down with injuries and stuff like that, but it just shows how resilient we are as a defense to just hold everything together and succeed."
On if it means anything to him to have the lead among safeties in Pro Bowl voting: "Yes and no. It's cool. At the same time, we still have five games to go until the playoffs start, and that's when our season starts in my mind. It's a one-week season going to the playoffs, but right now, we have to focus on finishing out the season. Realistically, I don't want to play in the Pro Bowl. I want to play in the Super Bowl. That's a mindset that everybody here has, and it'll be cool to be nominated for it, for sure, and I'll be thankful if that does happen, but not the priority at this point."
FB PATRICK RICARD
On if he expects physical, run-heavy games when there's rain and wind in the forecast:"Yes, you think that, if it's raining and stuff, you can't really throw the ball, but it's the NFL. Guys are very talented; they can catch and throw balls – I don't even know – probably in space. It's probably easier in space." (laughter) "But, yes. I mean, I guess you can anticipate that the run game is going to be more of a gameplan for both sides of the ball, because if it's really windy and really rainy, it might be pretty difficult to throw the ball. So, I'm excited to play every Sunday, regardless of the weather. If it comes down to that, then I'll be ready, and I know the guys here will be ready. We've got a great gameplan, so we're just getting ready for it."
On if he relishes sloppy conditions, given his New England ties and role as a fullback:"Yes. I mean, I guess. I've always liked playing in … That's the great thing about football – is that it doesn't matter what the weather is, [and] you're always going to play, unless it's thundering out; then, obviously not. But, that's what makes it a lot of fun. It can be any weather condition. In high school, I played when it was like … We were the only high school game that was up that week; it was [a] torrential downpour. [It was] so bad. It was one of those games [that] you really remember playing in. So, hopefully it's not like that this Sunday, but yes, playing in those kinds of games are fun."
On how his role could be impacted by TE Mark Andrews' absence:"With Mark [Andrews] being out for however long he's going to be out, I don't think my role is going to change too much. I might be asked to do a couple more things or more of what I've been doing, but I think guys that will fill his role are going to be Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar and other tight ends that we have on [the] practice squad or guys we bring in. I'm excited for those guys. I mean, Charlie and Isaiah are two second-year guys, who [are] very talented, and they just haven't had quite as many opportunities, because of Mark, and rightfully so; Mark is an All-Pro player, and he should be getting all the looks over those guys. Now that they have the opportunity to get those plays, I'm excited for them, and I know they're going to make the most of it. But yes, don't be expecting me to be running all these routes and [doing] too many things that Mark does." (laughter)"But, yes, whatever is asked of me … You guys know that I'm going to do whatever is asked."
On if he thinks the team would want to run the ball even more late in the season:"We're just going to keep doing what we've been doing. If we have to rely more on our running game, then so be it; we're ready for that task. I love our [running] backs; I love our [offensive] line; I love the way our receivers block; I love our quarterback that can also run the ball. So, it's a lot of fun to block for those guys. If we have to emphasize more of a run game, then we'll take that challenge on."
On if he embraces doing a lot of different things that don't show up on a stats sheet:"I was never really a skill player growing up. I came here as a defensive lineman, so for me to come play offense, it wasn't like, 'Oh, I need to get the ball,' or, 'I need recognition,' or stuff like that. I'm just happy to be playing and doing what I love to do. For me, seeing other guys have success because of things that I'm able to do for them, I think that's the biggest prize in itself. I know my role, and I love what I do. Whenever I get the ball, then I'll make the most of it. I couldn't care less if I don't get the ball once all year."
On what was going through his head during his career-long reception against the Lions earlier this year:"Alright; so, I've never gotten the ball in open field with no one around me and 20 yards [of space], so I just full sprinted. And most guys, when they see me … I always throw my shoulder, so I was thinking maybe I should try to make a move on this guy – show something different – and I tried hitting him with a late spin move; maybe it wasn't the best. I kind of got him, if he didn't turn my feet up. But next time, I think I'm better suited just to lower my shoulder."
On if we should expect to see a hurdle from him soon:"Absolutely not."(laughter)