Head Coach John Harbaugh
Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here with us. We're preparing for a good Cowboys team. Tuesday Night Football – we're looking forward to it. We have a lot of work to do. What questions do you have?"
With all the scheduling changes and all the days … Are you 100% certain of the day of the week it is today? (Jamison Hensley) (laughter) "Absolutely not. I know it's a [football] Wednesday. Today is [football] Wednesday. That's what I do know for certain. Do you guys know what I mean by that?" (Reporter: (laughing) "Yes.")
Football related – with QB Trace McSorley, after watching what was really his first extended action in an NFL game, what stood out to you? Especially with his limited practice time and having to orchestrate the hurry-up offense? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, he did a good job at that. I think it just speaks to his preparation, and the fact that he was able to prepare without reps. He hadn't even been in the building for a number of days. He was in the Zoom meetings, to his credit. He really studied, obviously, and it shows. He made a great read on the touchdown throw there. [He] understood how the Steelers play that coverage and recognized the coverage and made the throw. Of course, Marquise [Brown] made a nice play. But all of those things [and] the way he operated; it was all very positive."
Do you think you'll talk to the team at all about what you guys need to over the next five weeks? Or do you anticipate that you'll keep it very week-to-week? (Childs Walker) "We do both. I think they guys understand the big picture. You try to understand the immediate, important things that we need to think about – what's important now – and then you try to have a long-view as well."
You guys have played Cowboys QB Andy Dalton an awful lot, obviously. How much do you lean on that experience and preparation? How beneficial can it be, being it's a different offense, and with head coach Mike McCarthy's offense, and all of that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It's both. We've played him quite a bit. We've had a lot of experience. He's had a lot of experience against us, so I think that probably helps him as well. So, there are pluses there both ways. The offense is a unique offense to him, but they also are smart, and they tailor it to him. They do a lot of the things that he does well; they've built those things into their offense, as well. So, it's both."
In light of what happened in Denver with no quarterbacks, are you doing something, or did you do something different to make sure that your quarterbacks weren't all together? Did one of them quarantine? I'm just wondering how you did that process with having three quarterbacks? (David Ginsburg) "We tried to really space our quarterbacks just the proper way with the different meetings and all the things that we did. None of the quarterbacks spread within the group there at all, so that was a success for us. We'll continue to do that, and even more so now, because it's all going virtual now as far as … We've been virtual, even in the building, as far as being spread out at times. Now, our meetings will be … Most of the guys will be at home for the meetings. So, the quarterbacks won't even be in the same room, most of the time, for those meetings."
Just another question on QB Trace McSorley. We haven't gotten to see him play a whole game since the preseason a couple years ago. How has he sort of developed in your eyes over the past year and a half? (Aaron Kasinitz) "He's developed. He's growing in the offense; he understands the offense. I think like anybody develops and grows and matures as a player – he's done a good job with that. I don't really know what else to say besides that."
Do you foresee anybody being activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list today in order to practice? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes. Yes, but like I said, I'm not going to get into the details on all of that. How much they're able to practice? That's probably your follow-up question here – that depends. That will be all monitored in terms of how they're looking and how they're feeling. As I said that kind of does go back to the doctors and the trainers in that sense."
The team announced before the Pittsburgh game that offensive line coach Joe D'Alessandris and running backs coach Matt Weiss wouldn't be able to coach because of illness. Do you have any update on how they're feeling and if they'll be able to make it back in time for the Cowboys game? (Daniel Oyefusi) "Great question. I'll have to look at the days exactly on whether they'll be back or not for the Cowboys game. They're both doing well. I talked to 'Joe D' [Joe D'Alessandris] this morning, and I talked to Matt Weiss last night. I also talked to [football analyst] Daniel Stern, one of our coaching analysts. He does a great job for us, too. They're all doing well. Our prayers are also with them, the other guys and their families – 'Coach D's' [Joe D'Alessandris] family as well."
I know you didn't want to specify anybody on the COVID-19 list, but for one player, it's kind of more beyond football – TE Mark Andrews with his pre-existing condition. Is there anything you can tell us about … Because I know with those pre-existing conditions, it could affect those people a little bit more. Is there any light that you can shed on Mark Andrews' condition and how he's dealing with this? (Jamison Hensley) "I have not been informed of any issues. I talked to Mark [Andrews] a couple days ago. I'm due to call him again here – thank you for the reminder. It has been hard to keep track of all the guys. It's been hard to call all the guys every day, just because we've had so many of them. And it's not just players; [it's the] coaches, and there's been people in the building, too. But I have not heard of any negative consequences of the diabetes with Mark up to this point, so that's a positive."
QB Trace McSorley
I'm not asking about specifics to health, but can you give us an idea of what your week was like as you tried to keep up and prepare for the Steelers game, while not being able to go in the building? And whether you got any practice whatsoever in? (Jeff Zrebiec) "A big part of last week was just having to be on, on the mental side of it. Obviously, being able to be in the Zoom meetings was really helpful. I had a lot of time with [quarterbacks] Coach [James] Urban and [offensive coordinator] Coach [Greg] Roman. Just being in the meetings and being able to talk with them, just going over the gameplan a bunch; that was the big thing about last week. And then, once I was able to be cleared and kind of get back with the team, it was getting as many little reps as possible – just kind of getting back in the swing of things before the game."
What is your mindset heading into practice and this week? Is your mindset that you have to focus as if you're starting, or do you kind of expect QB Lamar Jackson to come back? (Jamison Hensley) "[Quarterbacks] Coach [James] Urban always has all the quarterbacks really preparing that way. That's the way he's kind of had me preparing and even Tyler Huntley, Rob [Robert Griffin III] and Lamar [Jackson] the last year and a half, two years. So, that's just the standard he holds us all to – to be able to prepare like that – because, as you can see, you never know what's going to happen. That's really just the way. I'm obviously wishing the best for Lamar, and his health and everything like that, and that he can get back as soon as he can. But just prepare as we always have been and be ready for anything."
It's been noted that you hadn't really had a chance to play since last year's preseason. I know the circumstances weren't ideal, but what was that like – being able to get some real action at quarterback and throwing your first touchdown in the NFL? (Luke Jones) "Like you said, the situation wasn't ideal; you never want a situation to come like that, where a guy is getting injured or is sick or out for whatever reason. But it was good to get out there – back out there again – just kind of get back in the feel of a game. Like you said, it's been a few years – since last preseason – since I had any real game action. So, it was just good to get back out there with the guys, kind of get in the huddle, be around guys in a game setting, and kind of just get that feeling again and get the adrenalin going. It felt really good being out there with everyone."
What was it like going against that Steelers front seven, which is probably one of the best in the NFL? How did you adjust to their speed and dealing with their pass rush? (Todd Karpovich) "Their pass rush and their front seven – and really their entire defense as a whole – everyone can see how good they've been this entire year. [They have] the best record in the NFL, and there's a reason for it. So, those guys, they're real tough competition in what they were able to do. So, it was kind of like being thrown in the fire a little bit. But kind of like you said, [quarterbacks] Coach [James] Urban holds us to a high standard every single week, and just prepares us like we're all going to be going in and playing in the game. So, once I got in there and knew the gameplan, I felt comfortable. And obviously, we weren't able to get the win, which is kind of the ultimate stat line in the NFL. So, wasn't able to do that, but going against them was kind of just getting thrown into the fire a little bit."
At Penn State, you threw the deep ball, and you were good at it. Against Pittsburgh on Wednesday, it seemed like it was just, "take what the defense gives you" with how good that pass rush is. How do you kind of toe that line between wanting to be aggressive and not holding on to the ball too long? (Jonas Shaffer) "Yes, kind of just like you said – going against a defense like that – having to take what they give you. That's something that we talk about; you see the first open guy, just kind of give him the ball, stuff like that. So, obviously, Marquise [Brown] was able to make a great play and make a couple guys miss and turn a little bit of an intermediate throw into a big-play gain for us. That's the kind of player Marquise is – a kind of lighting in a bottle, explosive-type player. So, it was great to see him just kind of be able to do what he does best [and] show his skillset. And then, obviously, being able to just keep sharpening the tools with us on the offense, and being able to do things like that, take what the defense gives us, and then, turning easy completions into big plays down the road with the guys we have on the outside."
What has WR Dez Bryant brought to the team, and what have you enjoyed the most about getting to work with him and getting to know him a little bit? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Dez [Bryant] has just brought a great energy and great attitude to the team. Since he got here, really, it's like the competition kind of turned up once he stepped in the building. The standard he holds himself to, and he just kind of bought in, and it seems like he brings guys along with him. How competitive he is, his positive attitude and everything he does, I think it's been a great effect on the rest of our team. [I'm] definitely excited to have him with us, and [I'm] looking forward to being able to get him a little bit more involved where we can."
You watched a lot of NFC East football growing up. What's it like to have WR Dez Bryant as your teammate? (Jamison Hensley) "It's really cool. Obviously, growing up, watching a lot of NFC East football, I watched a lot of Dez Bryant – him throwing up the 'X' and all that stuff. So, once he stepped in the building … And you can kind of see when he starts making plays on the practice field, the reason why he is Dez Bryant, and who he is, and how he attacks the ball, how he runs routes, strong to the catch point and all those kinds of things. It was just really cool to kind of see him live, in person, actually in a practice setting, as opposed to just on TV, as I did when I was growing up."
As a Washington fan growing up, what was your relationship with WR Dez Bryant like? (Jonas Shaffer) "The Washington [Football] Team was the team that I followed, just because that's where I was, but I honestly never was a huge fan. I watched their games on Sundays and stuff like that, but I knew the type of player Dez [Bryant] was. It wasn't like I disliked him at all because he was a Cowboys' player; that didn't matter to me, honestly, as a kid. He was always just one of the best receivers in the league, and you can kind of see why. Like I said, once he stepped into the building, he kind of brought everyone's level up. And having a guy like that is just infectious, and it's really good to have in our locker room."
With WR Dez Bryant's competitiveness, like you said, and the opponent on Tuesday, how special do you think this game is going to be for him? Do you sense that maybe this is a little bit bigger of a matchup for him on Tuesday against the Cowboys? (Shawn Stepner) "It's hard to really tell. I'm sure there probably is some stuff, maybe, inside for him; I'm not going to speak for him, though. The good thing about him is that he always holds himself to the standard – it doesn't matter [who] the opponent is. And his competitiveness, his attitude, it doesn't seem to change no matter who's lining up across from him. Whether it's in practice or during a game, he is who he is, and there's a reason why he is the big name and the star player he is. So, I think he just holds himself to that standard no matter who lines up across from him."
How is it to go viral on social media, first on TikTok, and now, with a 70-yard touchdown pass to WR Marquise Brown? (Ximena Lugo Latorre) "That whole TikTok thing was super random – kind of how it got started. I didn't even have a profile on the TikTok platform, so that kind of just tells you how the internet is a crazy place, and how there's no rhyme or reason for why things go viral and stuff like that. But I was just happy to get on the field and try to make an impact in the game for my teammates being able to get out there. Obviously, Marquise [Brown] made a great play, made a great catch and made a few guys miss – turned an intermediate throw into a huge play for us. So then, the internet kind of takes over from there. You can't really control all that stuff all the time. But it's just been a good time. I try to have fun with it where I can, and just focus on what I can [do] here every single day – practicing, preparing, whatever I can do here. And then, all that other internet stuff, it'll take care of itself, I guess."
T Orlando Brown Jr.
What do you think it's going to feel like to actually get back and have a full practice, because it's been a while for you guys? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, it has been a while. Obviously, my position specifically, it's a little – I guess you could say – harder to show up on Sunday and just kind of do your job without the preparation throughout the week of feeling the pass rush, feeling the body, feeling the run defender and all the different types of fits on the double team. So, we've still got a lot of work to do this season. We haven't peaked yet, which is a great thing, in my opinion. So, I'm excited to get back out there and get to working on those things."
How did you go about preparing for the Steelers game, when you didn't have access to the facility, and you weren't practicing? How challenging was that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, it was challenging. For me, personally, I'm a big visualize-type of player to where throughout a week, I visualize the way my guy rushes, the fits of the runs and the fits of my double teams. So, I spend a lot of time taking pad sets on air outside throughout the week and by myself, just working on my rhythm and my timing, trying to visualize punching the guy, trying to visualize his rush moves, and the things that he wanted to do and his gameplan. So, it was definitely different; it's something I've never done before. That was my first time ever playing a game without having a true practice."
Has it been tough dealing with all the moving parts on the offensive line at center and on the right side? (Todd Karpovich) "No, it hasn't at all. To be honest with you, we've got a really good room. We've got a bunch of guys that love the game of ball, that love to go out there and play it the right way. And we've got a lot of guys who know how to communicate and have really good fundamentals. So, to be honest with you, I haven't felt any difference from this group opposed to the one that we started with Week One."
What stood out to you about QB Trace McSorley and the way he prepared himself, and the way he played against the Steelers? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, Trace [McSorley] is somebody since he's been here, he's come in with the mentality and the poise to lead a team and lead an offense. I've always felt as though he was capable of coming in and playing at a high level. And given the opportunity, I know that he could play at a high level, and I've got a lot of respect for him and the way that he carries himself, how consistent he approaches the game, and how consistent he is once he takes command in the huddle. And when he came in and made that big throw, made that big play, right before that, he had kind of let us know that, 'Hey, we need to score this drive and get something going to have an opportunity to win this game.' And obviously, we fell short, but I've got a lot of trust in him and his abilities."
Do you think much about the big picture of what you guys need to do over the next five games? And how does your experience from 2018, when you guys closed strong, form the way you look at it? (Childs Walker) "Yes, we definitely – I guess you could say – take a look at the big picture overall in understanding kind of what needs to take place. But in reality, right now, we can't play all five games [that] we have left. We've only got Dallas, right now. So, that's been, really, the main focus; making sure that we're as prepared [as we can be] for this game. And obviously, after this game, we'll get ready for Cleveland, and so on and so forth."
I know you're close with TE Mark Andrews. How much have you been trying to stay in touch with him, and how has he been through everything? (Jamison Hensley) "Yes, I stay in touch with him consistently, whether he's got COVID[-19] or not. That's one of my best friends. But he's doing really well. Obviously, he wants to be out there; he misses ball. It's what we do for a living. But he'll be excited when he can come back."
Does the same hold true with QB Lamar Jackson? I know you're very close with him, too. And they told a story in the NBC broadcast about how much he's hurting about not being able to play. Have you spoken to him, and how much do you think it's bothered him, and how is he feeling? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, he's feeling well. He's feeling well. He's very similar to Mark [Andrews] in the sense that he wants to be out there playing. And this is a family here that we've been able to be a part of and help create a certain type of an atmosphere and mentality in the locker room. So, it's hard watching from at home or even on the sidelines for someone that's hurt. So, I know Lamar [Jackson] is looking forward to getting out there."
What's it been like to have a guy like WR Dez Bryant, who I'm sure you watched growing up, as a teammate? (Jamison Hensley) "I love ball. I love studying football. I've always kept up with different types of players and all those different things. So, obviously, going to Oklahoma, you know about Dez Bryant and what he did at Oklahoma State and all those different things. But it's been a pleasure working with him. He knows football really well. He's been around it for a long time and played at a high level for a long time. So, I've got a lot of faith in him. I know that he's capable of making a lot of big plays, and hopefully, we'll start seeing those here soon."
How big do you think this game is for WR Dez Bryant? (Shawn Stepner) "I haven't' really talked to him about it at all. I'm sure, with him playing [in Dallas] for so long and having a very similar front office, I'm sure he's pretty excited about the opportunity."
I know you guys are moving forward from the coronavirus outbreak, but when you reflect upon the past week or so, how do you think things were handled, and has it changed your perspective at all about this season and everything going forward? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's just an understanding that the virus is serious, and that it can definitely affect work, or your body, or anything. And the scary part about it, to me, is just the effects that – I guess you could say – it has on the body. Everyone is affected a certain way and in a different way. So, it's a fear of mine, obviously, to catch it. I don't want to catch it. But the fact that we were able to go out there and play that game and come out healthy says a lot."
Given some of the absences, is it strange that you've become one of the more veteran guys on offense kind of overnight? (Luke Jones) "I just try to approach it with the mentality that I'm going to do my job to the best of my abilities. I want to be somebody that this team and my players and coaches can lean on. So, that's just my approach. Whether everyone's here or not here, I just want to do my job to be the best that I can be to make sure that I'm putting the offense and the team in the best position."
ILB Patrick Queen
You guys have been missing a lot of veteran players in your front seven, obviously. How challenging has that been? And who has really emerged as leaders and filled that void in the meantime? (Luke Jones) "It's challenging when you lose great guys like we did. It's just, we always have to focus on the next man up, and that's what the guys came in and did, and guys stepped up and balled. From a leadership standpoint, everybody came up and became leaders this game. You didn't really see [just] one person standout; everybody was together. And I think that's probably the biggest thing going into these next few games; everybody sticking together, like we just did through this game."
In every sport, people seem to talk about the rookie wall, and when you get to a point in the season when physically and mentally it gets taxing. Have you experienced that at all, in terms of the physical and mental aspect of it? And have you spoken to previous guys who have gone through that? (Jeff Zrebiec) "It gets tough every now and then, but at the end of the day, I remember why I'm here. I remember all the stuff that I went through previously, before I got here, and that just motivates me every day. I hear the talk out there, and I'm the type of person that I like the talk. Some people say, 'Block out the noise. Block out the noise,' and that's what motivates me to be better every day. So, it's just coming in – like I said – every day and try to get better at what I do, try to help this team get to where they want to be. And that starts at home, studying, coming in here, getting with the players and knowing what we all want to do and just building – try to take this next step forward."
How excited are you and the team to get some of your key guys back? (Jamison Hensley) "Really excited. That's our guys. We wouldn't want to go to war with anybody else. So, the sooner they come back, the happier we're all going to be as an organization, and players and coaches. So, when they come back, I can't wait, and let's get the show on the road."
It looked like you almost got your hand on the ball when you dropped in coverage against the Steelers. How close do you feel like you are to making some more of those plays? Do you feel like you're reading your coverage assignments better as the season goes on? (Ryan Mink) "Yes, I feel like my coverage skills are getting way better. It's just a point that I have to settle down. I got a little rocky in the beginning – I kind of got shook – but I'm finding my way back, like I said. And that's a play I should have made. I tried to one-hand the ball, and possibly could have got two on there. The speed of the game was kind of actually happening fast, so I saw the ball and just tried to hurry up and grab it, and I kind of let it slip out of my hands. Plays like that, they will be made from now on."
You guys knew going into the year that this was going to be an abnormal season. What have the last two weeks been like to live through? And what do you think you'll take from it going forward? (Childs Walker) "It's exciting, to say the most. You have a lot of guys sick; that sucks for them, personally, and being around their families. You don't want them to spread it to their families and stuff, so that's why we try to do as best as we can to prevent all of this. It's just stuff that we have to stack. We have to do what we can, the best way that we can. That's washing our hands, keeping our distance and keeping our masks up. For all the guys that are coming back, I know they're really excited, because they've been out [for] two weeks. We miss those guys. It just shows the resilience within our team. We weren't even able to get a practice in. Everybody coming out there running full speed and trying their best to win this game just showed a lot of ambition from our team."
Along those lines, at the beginning of November, you were a high-risk close contact and tested negative, and only CB Marlon Humphrey was sidelined for that Colts game. Three weeks later, it's another outbreak. You guys are even stricter about the protocols, or at least the NFL is, and yet, you guys had to deal with what you had to deal with. Have you thought at all about why that was? Is it frustrating that this virus is invisible, and you just can't tell how it kind of spreads? (Jonas Shaffer) "Like I said, it's frustrating, because those people, they get that stuff and then they have to go into their homes and their family is there. They don't want to spread that. So, that's probably the biggest thing I look at, outside of myself. Because at the end of the day, I feel like I'm going to do everything I can to prevent it, but if I were to get it, then I got it. I'm not about to stress myself [out] over it. I'm still going to take the precautions that I need to, to protect myself and protect my teammates and coaches, so they can protect their families. That's how I look at it; if somebody gets it, they get it. We just have to keep trying to prevent it the best that we can."
Despite losing three straight games, is there a feeling in the locker room that you guys can get hot, go on a run down the stretch and make a playoff run? (Ryan Mink) "Of course. This team has a, 'no back down,' mentality, and I love it. The stuff that we talk about in the locker room, we all have the same mission in mind; that's to get down this road, win all these games, go to the playoffs and get hot and just become that team that we know we can be. We let some games slip, and we all know that as a team. We just want to get better from this point on. That's the only thing that's on our mind, just beating the Cowboys and going on this little streak that we need."
You mentioned not being able to practice last week and being on the COVID-19 list a couple weeks earlier. I'm curious for you specifically, how do you train when you're not allowed to go to the facility? What do you do to stay in shape and condition and all that stuff? (Aaron Kasinitz) "It's tough, but you just have to work with what you've got; push-ups, sit-ups, jog around the block – whatever you can. It's tough, but the biggest part, for me, is not being able to practice. Then going into the game, you're in full contact and you hit somebody, it's like your body goes into shock for not hitting for like a week or two. So, that's the biggest thing for me. But like I said, at the end of the day, our team … We didn't practice, [but] everybody came out at full speed, and had heart and grit, and just was determined to try to win that game – that's what I love about this team."