Opening statement: "OK, good to see everybody. I appreciate you being here. We're just in the middle of our preparations for our next game against Tennessee. We're looking forward to it. We understand what a worthy opponent they are [and] how well they've been playing. We know we have our hands full, but it's the playoffs and we're excited about the opportunity. What questions do you have?"
I know you guys don't like to dwell too much on history, but a lot of fans, when they saw the matchup with the Titans, they remembered last year with the playoff game that was just a year ago around this time. Do you feel that … As far as with the players, is there any sort of revenge factor from last year's playoff loss? (Jamison Hensley) "I think we're just focusing on the game. The previous games, really, have little bearing. We've played them many times over the years. We were on the bus ride back, and [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and [executive vice president] Ozzie [Newsome] were talking about 2000, 2003, 2006, 2008 … You go back to, what, 2018? I mean, there's just been a lot of games over the years. So, it's kind of got some history – the rivalry does, sure. But what impact does any of that have on the next game? We just have to go out there and play our best game of the year – that's what we're preparing to try to do."
Related to that, do you assess them more … When you film review, do you look more closely at the game you played them in this year, rather than the playoff game last year, because personnel is slightly different? Or do you look at both of those games roughly equally? (Bo Smolka) "I don't really put a percentage on it; we look at everything. We look at everything. We look at everything, and you try to put it together. You try to form a plan to attack the team that they are right now; that's the main thing – who they're playing with and what they're doing. So, I wouldn't really put a number on it."
Throughout the year, QB Lamar Jackson, T Orlando Brown Jr. and I think TE Mark Andrews at some point all said something about the team didn't want to peak too early, and they talked about that. Obviously, you want to play your best football every week, but do you think you're playing your best football at this time of year? Do you think you guys are peaking right now at the right time? (Todd Karpovich) "Well, we're playing our best football of the year, for sure. Whether we're peaking or not remains to be seen. So, we'll see. That's just kind of a phrase that we use. Really, what it means is keep your poise, keep your wits and understand what's required when – that's part of what we talk about."
Looking back to your postgame comments yesterday, one thing that jumped out at me was that you said you loved where the team is right now, and you love going into the playoffs in this scenario, at this time. Can you kind of elaborate on why you feel so strongly about that – where you are right now? (Shawn Stepner) "Yes, the question was compared to last year. The answer was there is no comparison, you know? So, we're excited about the opportunity. I do love the team. I love the players and the coaches. I love what we've been through – the adversity, even – [and] the challenges, because it forges you and it makes you who you are. So, that's exciting, man. You're living in the moment, and it's an exciting thing to be in the playoffs in the National Football League. I know we all feel the same way about it."
Titans RB Derrick Henry has had a couple good games against you the last two times out. Is there anything that you can do to prevent him from running wild? Or do you just try to limit what he's got and then do what you can to contain that pretty potent offense that does have more weapons than just Derrick Henry? (David Ginsburg) "Yes, exactly. We're going to try to play our best defensive football game. One play at a time, we're going to try to make every play the best play we can play. We're not conceding anything at any play. If and when they make plays, then you bounce back, and you play the next play. So, that's it, really. It's just that simple. The big picture-type of observations are left for others; we have to play the plays and the game, come up with the gameplan and stuff like that. So, that's what we're going to try to do."
Could you comment a little bit on the difference … Every season has its own variables, but last year, you guys appeared to be almost invincible going into the Tennessee game. I'm not saying you took them lightly, but you had won 12 games in a row. This year, it's been a much more challenging season to get here. Do you think that's actually a positive for your team that they're kicked into full mental acuteness, where that might have been different last year, where they thought all they had to do was go on the field? (Stan Charles) "Is that what they thought?" (Reporter: "I'm just asking. That's what I thought part of the issue was last year; they just sort of … They won 12 games in a row. They thought they were unbeatable.") "Right. Well, I didn't think that."
It's been about a month since QB Robert Griffin III was placed on IR. How is he doing in his recovery? Do you anticipate he'll be able to return to practice ahead of Sunday's game? (Daniel Oyefusi) "We'll see where he's at. He's done a good job with the rehab. He's in a good place. I talk to him once or twice a week as he rehabs. He's doing well. We'll see how that goes. A lot of that stuff is roster decisions, too. That will be up to [executive vice president and general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and the front office. We'll try to make the best decision for our roster going forward, and we'll see how it plays out."
With 400 yards rushing yesterday, you almost never see that kind of onslaught in a game. When you go back and watch the game, what worked so well? Related to that, maybe, what went into the decision to start C Trystan Colon-Castillo at center? How did he look when you reviewed that game? (Bo Smolka) "He did a nice job. He played well. He'd been practicing well. He played well in the previous game that he played against Pittsburgh. I thought he did a good job. So, with Patrick [Mekari] being hurt, we thought that was the best route to go, in terms of just building the entire offensive line. I think those guys played a good game. Lamar [Jackson], obviously, was the catalyst to that. The running backs played really well. We had some broken tackles, some really good reads and things like that that led to that. But when you get some big runs, that's how you put up some numbers like that. It's one of those things that I'm sure … Obviously, it goes down in the record books, but honestly, we're kind of moving on from that and getting ready for the next game."
Has there been any clarity with P Sam Koch's availability for this weekend? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Yes, he should be available. When he'll come back to practice and all of that – I haven't really looked at it today. He may not practice for a few days this week, but he's really not going to need to be at practice to punt in the game. So, if things go according to plan, I expect him to be out there punting. If not, we have Johnny [Townsend], and Johnny did a real good job. He did a really good job holding. He did a nice job punting. So, that was a great job in terms of our coaches and scouts bringing Johnny back here. We're happy to have him."
I know we asked you about the defensive guys after the game yesterday, but I don't think we asked you about WR Willie Snead IV. Is he also possibly a good option for this week? (Childs Walker) "Yes, I think Willie [Snead IV] is a good option. It's not a given. I got the report today – it's not a given, but I'm really hopeful for Willie to be back."
Everyone points to QB Lamar Jackson when describing your red zone efficiency, where I think he has  passing touchdowns, zero interceptions. But what is it about his role in the offense and the offense's execution in general, where you guys have been so efficient when you get to that area of the field where it's toughest to score? (Jonas Shaffer) "Right, when we've won games, we've been efficient down there, and when we haven't, we haven't been efficient. We've been able to score touchdowns. That leads you to higher scoring games, and obviously, that's a huge key to winning games, so I think it's very important. We work on it every single day through training camp and the regular season – that's part of it – because we know how important it is. [Offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] has done a really nice job of organizing it and scheming it. [Senior assistant/ running backs] Craig Ver Steeg, who has that responsibility in terms of organizing the red zone and helping [offensive coordinator] Greg [Roman] scheme up the stuff, he's done an excellent job with that. And it really comes back to, when you can run the ball well, and when you have a quarterback who can extend plays and has such good vision – like Lamar [Jackson] does – that makes you tough in the red zone."
We've asked you a lot about RB Mark Ingram II the last few weeks. So, the way that game was able to go on Sunday, how pleased were you to be able to get him some touches, get him back going a little bit, just knowing how you value backfield depth, especially going into January? (Luke Jones) "Right, it was a game where we kind of needed Mark [Ingram II] to step up, for sure. We knew that day was coming, and it's still there, possibly – any game, including this next one. So, the way the roster broke down and the way the game was likely to be played out, we were glad that he was able to play so well. He played well, like you would expect him to, being the true pro that he is, and it was a big plus for us. And to your point – I think it's a good point – that to get him those carries after not being out there for about three weeks or so was a plus, because it's good to get out there and play football – get yourself going. So, that was a plus all the way around."
After you guys lost to the Titans in November, you had mentioned tackling down the stretch in that game was a little bit of an issue. How has the defense responded? And I know, right after that game, you had the Coronavirus outbreak, so were you able to, at some point, hone-in on tackling at practice or anything like that? (Aaron Kasinitz) "We work on tackling in different kinds of ways. It's not really tackling at the end of the season, where you're actually out there doing live tackling drills. I don't think that would be wise. But we have tackled well. Have we tackled as well as we want? No. We can still tackle better, and we're going to have to be at our tackling-best against the Titans. That's just the way it is against these guys. They have numerous tackle-breaker ball carriers; tight ends, wide receivers and running backs, and the quarterback can make you miss and can break tackles. He [Ryan Tannehill] is very fast, and they use him to run the ball; he's their second-leading rusher. So, we just have our hands full that way. We understand that against the Titans, that's very important, and we're just going to have to be at our best doing that."
Because of how these two teams are built – the Top Two rushing teams in the NFL – do you expect this to be one of the most physical games that you have this year? (Jamison Hensley) "I don't rate them. You've asked that question, you guys always ask me that, and I just don't do the ratings."
Can you comment on the growth of your two second-year receivers – WR Miles Boykin and WR Marquise Brown – and how they're fitting in now and seem to be making more plays? (Stan Charles) "Right, that's a good observation. Marquise [Brown] has made a couple huge plays for us, and there are more that he wants to make, too. I thought he stayed alive on that role-to-the-right pass in the red zone. Him coming back from all the way across the backside and getting himself into Lamar's [Jackson] vision as Lamar was buying time on that naked-boot play, I thought was just a great play by him. He has a knack for getting open. He also made some critical catches. On third down; catch, get up field, slip a tackle, get an extra yard or two, get us a first down – those are big. And of course, Miles [Boykin] had the big one early, when we beat a particular zone coverage there – quarter's coverage – where the safeties were really involved against the run. Mark Andrews kind of pulled the safety out, and then, Miles ran a great route against the corner. Of course, Lamar put it on the money, on time. So, yes, those are the kinds of things that we just need those guys to keep doing. They're both blocking well, too. So, this is the year you want to see those guys take it to the next level, and now, this time of the year would be what you'd expect from those guys."
We're starting to hear defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale's name get bandied around as these coaching searches start. Have you guys gotten any formal requests to interview anybody on your staff, so far? (Childs Walker) "Just [director of football research] Scott Cohen. There was a request put in yesterday for Scott Cohen as a general manager candidate for the Texans. That's the only one that I'm aware of at this time. Of course, I'll just say, again, those guys would be great candidates. You talk about, of course, [defensive coordinator] Don [Martindale]; I've known Don since the '90's, since the early '90's. He's coached with my dad, and we've been together many years, and we've always been friends, and I've always admired him as a coach and as a person. He'd be a great leader of a team. [Offensive coordinator] Greg Roman has certainly established himself in just tremendous ways over the years. He would do a great job. [Asst. head coach/pass coord./wide receivers] David Culley would be an excellent candidate as a head coaching candidate. Gosh, Coach Culley is a leader, he's energetic, he's a high motivator. He's been with winning programs consistently his whole career. There's a reason for that, and he'd be a great candidate. And I'll give you a young guy; special teams coordinator Chris Horton, I think at some point in time is going to start getting interest, and there are others on our staff. I don't want to short-change anybody. But we'll see what happens, and those guys are definitely guys who would be worthy candidates."
With RB J.K. Dobbins, can you appreciate the patience he's showed? He was a star at Ohio State, and he didn't get a lot of touches in the early portion of the season, but now he's really come on. He's talked about his patience and waiting for his opportunity, and he's made the most of it. (David Ginsburg) "Yes, I don't know about waiting for his opportunity; I think he's been working for his opportunity and growing and learning. He's a great competitor, of course. It's just the next game, really. It could be J.K. [Dobbins] … We're very blessed to have these guys, these weapons and the type of people and the attitudes that they have. But you've got J.K., you've got Gus [Edwards], you've got Mark [Ingram II], we've got Justice [Hill]; those guys are all guys who can carry the rock for us and make yards. So, yes, he's done a great job, and he's got a great attitude, and we love him as a person and as a player."
This is going to be your first playoff game without a packed stadium. How does it feel to you guys standing on the sideline or playing on the field? Does it feel different? Do you get pumped just as much without fans in the stands? Or does it not matter? (Donna Jean Rumbley) "What is the deal down there? Are they going to have fans, or are you saying it's no fans? I haven't heard." [Senior vice president of communications Chad Steele: "Yes, there will be fans there, Coach. I think it's between 12,000-16,000."] "So, we've been in stadiums with that kind of number – 8,000, 10,000, 12,000 – and it's been pretty … It's not deafeningly loud, but it's more realistic. When you have fans there, it feels more like a game. When you don't have any fans, it's really different; you definitely do sense that it's different. So, either way, you've got to bring your own energy. I don't care if there's 70,000 fans in the stands, you have to bring your own energy. You have to bring your energy to compete in this league – especially in the playoffs – against the energy that you're going to be faced with. So, yes, it's very important to do that, either way. I would say more so, you've really got to think about it with an empty stadium. But the fact that they're going to have 12,000-16,000 fans, as Chad [Steele] said, that'll be exciting, and that'll be a little more realistic in some ways. It'll feel like fans."