Special Teams Coordinator Chris Horton
I just wanted to get your thoughts on how LS Nick Moore performed in place of LS Morgan Cox against the Steelers? (Todd Karpovich) "Good to see everyone. I know it's been a while, so you probably have a lot of questions. I thought Nick [Moore] came in and he performed well. It was good to see him get his first game action without any preseason games. He's been practicing well, and he's just been waiting for his opportunity. But he came in, he performed well, and he was spot-on in the game. His communication was outstanding. It's good to have him on the roster for that situation."
CB Davontae Harris is a guy who made a special teams play on Wednesday. When you guys claimed him, was he somebody that you thought would be able to really contribute right away? (Aaron Kasinitz) "When we claimed Davontae [Harris] from Denver, I found some time to watch the tape. What you saw from him on tape was a guy who could run and a guy that made plays. He showed that the other night, getting down there and forcing that turnover. This guy didn't practice for two weeks, and he came out and he ran well. He played well for us. It was really exciting to see. We just want to continue to see him grow the more he understands our schemes and things like that."
As far as with K Justin Tucker and P Sam Koch, did you know … When the facility was closed down, they couldn't work out or anything. Do you know if they were punting and kicking off to the side, just to remain sharp during that downtime? (Jamison Hensley) "Those guys – I talk about it all the time – are true pros. So, when a situation like this occurred, those two guys are going to find places. If I'm not mistaken, they have a lot of yard space. [Justin] Tucker might have been kicking in his backyard. Sam [Koch] might have been kicking out on his farm somewhere. So, those guys definitely got some work in. They understood what it was going to take to come into that game and really perform at a high level – that's just what they do. So, it was good to see them go out and perform the way they did."
Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman
Opening statement: "I hope everyone is doing well. We're really excited about the challenge of this Dallas Cowboys' defense. They've got a lot of talent up front, [at the] linebacker level, [and in the] secondary. We watched the film – we're going through that process right now. I think all the players have a real healthy respect for what Dallas presents. We're excited about that challenge and getting on track this coming Tuesday."
The obvious question is how difficult has preparation [been] this week with your current quarterback situation? Only two healthy guys – how does that complicate things? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Trace [McSorley] and Tyler [Huntley] have been doing a very good job. It's kind of a day-to-day thing during these times, and that's OK. So, we're looking at it. They're excited about their opportunity. I thought we had a good day yesterday, [and] looking forward to having a good day today. I think the only thing you can really acknowledge is what's right in front of you. We've got a great opportunity, and I know those guys are excited."
Are you able to keep QB Lamar Jackson updated on the gameplan, even though there's some uncertainty as to when he might come off the Reserve/[COVID-19] list? (Childs Walker) "Yes, without question. He's fully engaged on these virtual meetings. He's part of all that – gets to watch all the film. Once practice takes place, then we'll have another virtual meeting to look at the practice, virtually. So, he's really lockstep, each and every step through. The only thing he can't do is, obviously, be here at the facility and actually take part in it. But, mentally, he's right on it."
Can you just talk about the job your offensive line did against Pittsburgh in being able to create running lanes? Their front seven was pretty fierce, and Dallas is ranked 32nd against the run. How key is it to get that run game going behind the offensive line this week? (Todd Karpovich) "I thought our offensive line really played hard, did a really nice job. I really like how that group kind of came together under unique circumstances last week. That being said, this week, I really think we have an opportunity to improve. And by that, I mean we've got some guys coming back that will be able to play. We're looking forward to just constantly improving from here on out. But I really think – this time of year – a strong run game really is a huge factor in our success. I think Dallas – they've got some low rankings – [but] I think they've got some really good players. I think they're well-coached, and I think they make you fight for every yard. So, that's what we've got to be ready to do."
What's the sense that you get from WR Dez Bryant this week and his passion going into this game? (Ryan Mink) "I think Dez [Bryant] has been a true pro since the moment he got here. His attitude has been great every week. I'm sure there's an extra glimmer this week for him. There always is when you go up against one of your old teams – and in his case, his old team. But I really think every week he's really brought a lot of enthusiasm and spirit to what we do. So, that's a credit to him as a professional."
How important is it to have a guy like WR Dez Bryant – a veteran in that locker room when it comes to the wide receivers – especially when it comes to so many young guys on the roster? (Matthew Stevens) "We've definitely got a young group, and that's exciting for the future, but it's always great to have a veteran presence. Someone who can share stores, advice. We've got a really, really good wide receivers coach in [assistant head coach/pass coordinator/wide receivers] David Culley, and he's got just worlds of experience. But it's also great to have that presence in the locker room. Being able to hangout, and explain things, and give advice and perspective on things. So, I think that's always a very important component of any position group, really."
With WR Dez Bryant, I'm sure his numbers, he would like them to be a little more – as far as catches, and things like that. But how much more do you think … I mean, he has only been with the team for a little over a month. How much production and impact can he make, do you feel, over the final month? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, I think it's just a matter of taking advantage of opportunities as they come. We're a pretty balanced offense; we're going to run it [and] we're going to throw it. So, it really comes down to really taking advantage of every opportunity when they come. We're excited for all of our eligible receivers to be a big part of that moving forward. We're all very excited about Dez [Bryant] and what he can do."
Obviously, the tight ends are a critical part of your offense. With TE Nick Boyle out and now TE Mark Andrews still on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, how tough has it been for you, and how much have you had to change what you do because you have these new guys in a very critical position in your offense? (Ryan Mink) "Well, we've had to make severe adjustments. Going back to last week, I would say every day things were changing. But that's how it goes, so you make those adjustments. It's definitely unique. It's a challenge that presents itself, and I really feel like the guys who have been here are really giving everything they have to help contribute and get on the same page. I thought they did a phenomenal job last week getting ready on a short window. I saw the three of them trotting out on the field pregame, and it was like three new faces coming out. So, it's a credit to them. Sometimes, that's just how it goes. So, you take it and make the most of it, and that's what we plan on doing."
Last week's game was the first game we saw RB Justice Hill in pretty considerable action. What did you think in terms of what you saw from Justice? (Garrett Downing) "I really think Justice [Hill] came on strong at the end of last year. I thought he had a good training camp. He's contributing to the team in various ways – special teams, and then he was able to come in and really help us out the other night as well. So, I really like where he's going. He's definitely improved certain areas of his game – protection, etcetera – to where we really feel a high level of trust there. We're really excited for Justice and what he can bring."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "What we've gone through – and I know there's going to be some questions, probably, in that way – pales in comparison to what's going on with our country. We know that there are people out there that have lost family members, can't see family members, lost their jobs, and really, honestly, [are] just looking for food. So, our job is to come out and create a diversion, if you will, for what's going on in our country. And our guys know that, and the organization itself has done a great job of going to great lengths of trying to keep everybody safe – with 'Harbs' [head coach John Harbaugh] and [owner] Steve Bisciotti and [president] Dick Cass and [executive vice president & general manager] Eric [DeCosta] and everyone. We continue to strive to stay apart from each other. We've gone all virtual now, so I think [senior vice president of communications] Chad [Steele] let you guys know that the press conferences – at least for the coordinators – are going to be pushed back, because our time has been pushed back. But like I said, it pales in comparison to what's going on in our country. Everybody, keep wearing your mask, please wash your hands, social distance. I think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, because they said vaccines are coming out, but that doesn't mean that it's going away, because we're in a tough battle this time of year."
How impressed were you with the tackling against the Steelers, even without part of your starting defensive line and both starting outside linebackers? (Jamison Hensley) "The tackling, I thought overall it was good. We did miss some tackles from the layoff; I think that attributed to it. And plus, they're just good receivers when they get the ball in their hands. But it's going to be the same challenge we have this week, as well."
Obviously, you've seen QB Andy Dalton many, many times with the Bengals, but I'm just curious what you see from him with the Cowboys? How he's playing and any differences between how he looks there as opposed to in Cincinnati? (Cliff Brown) "He has different skill around him, so that might look a little different to you, but he's still Andy Dalton. He's a tough quarterback that's played in this division – the AFC North – so he's going to stand there and make the tough throws. He's throwing it on rhythm, and they're doing some things that are tailored to him, as well, to expand on his strengths. So, it's going to be a great challenge for us, because we know him, and he knows us. So, that'll be a chess match in itself, just like last week with [Steelers head coach] Mike [Tomlin] and [offensive coordinator] Randy [Fichtner] and Ben [Roethlisberger]."
Considering the circumstances going into the game and then losing CB Jimmy Smith, how pleased were you to see how CB Tramon Williams and CB Davontae Harris did? And do you feel you're slowly but surely rebuilding some depth in the secondary, especially with CB Anthony Averett coming back to practice now? (Luke Jones) "Yes, I think so. I think I met him [Davontae Harris] on the plane on the way to Pittsburgh. (laughter) He had the two walk-throughs, and then we put him out there, and he made some plays – made some plays on special teams, and he made some plays for us on defense. So, this time of year, everybody is battling those same things, with injuries and everything else. But I was really pleased with how they played."
What did you see from some of the young guys who had never played before – OLB Aaron Adeoye, OLB Chauncey Rivers and those guys? What did you take from their effort, and did you learn anything about some of those guys who hadn't gotten any game action? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I loved the effort of everyone. They remember what you do in December – it's that time of year, that, hopefully, when we have these press conferences, I'm talking about that all the way out until the end, because that's what you need – is that kind of effort. It was, really, the parent in you. I talk sometimes as a coach. You're happy to see success of guys. They've worked their tails off all year, and they finally had their opportunity, and they took advantage of it. They did a really nice job for us. 'AC' [Aaron Crawford] did a good job in the middle there. He got knocked around a couple times, but for the most part, he was a good anchor in there. 'Double A,' Aaron [Adeoye], his first play, he got us the win on third down, because he executed the defense. So, you're really pleased for them. And you could see the excitement in their face, you could see the professionalism of them getting ready for the game, just like they do. All these times that they've been still on practice squad, they give our offense a hard time, and they did the same thing for Ben [Roethlisberger]."
With all these moving pieces, how key has DE Derek Wolfe been, as far as being an anchor for that defensive line and his leadership role with those young guys? (Todd Karpovich) "He's been a stud for us. With missing 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams] and Calais [Campbell], he's been the anchor in there, and he's been the leader in there. He's played a huge role for us, both in the run game and rushing the quarterback. So, his arrow is … He's going in the right direction. And I'm excited to get all three of them back. You know that, so."
We've seen OLB Tyus Bowser make a number of really good plays in coverage this year. Did you always kind of think he could excel in that phase of the game? (Childs Walker) "Yes. Tyus [Bowser], all the work he's put in, and you're seeing it come to fruition in his fourth year. He's confident when he goes out there. He played a much bigger role for us in Pittsburgh and did a really nice job. I'm really happy for Tyus. And he just executes the defense. He's been in it three years now, and he's really confident with how he's playing, and you can see that. So, he's been very productive for us. He had three hits on Ben [Roethlisberger] last week, and the pick down in the red zone was huge."
How difficult is it for you as a coach to get new guys involved that quickly? And can you speak to what the difference is for the cornerback position, because it just seems like that's where more injuries happen? (Matthew Stevens) "Yes, I think that it might be that way across the league, as far as corners getting injured, and especially this year, because of just 2020. That's the easiest answer – just 2020 is the answer I can give you for a lot of it. And it's a credit to personnel for bringing in the corners that they have, it's a credit to the corners themselves and to the coaches. And I think it's our package; our package is easy to teach, it's easy to learn, and guys can play fast. It's one of those things that you just move on. It's a challenge that everybody's having – and we accept challenges. We look forward to challenges. We talk about series of events all the time. And if you look at it any other way, you're going the wrong direction."
Have you guys checked in with some of the players emotionally? How's the team doing and handling the coronavirus outbreak? (Aaron Kasinitz) "You talk to them about it every day. My point is, we're a family. And we don't use that word lightly in the defensive room. And it's our responsibility to make sure that every family is safe. That's why we're always talking about, wear your mask, stay apart, do all those types of things. And whatever strain – I'm no doctor, I'm no scientist – that we had in here, it was a vicious strain of COVID-19, and I know from checking in with them. Especially the ones who had family members, they got it after [the players] got it, and some of it was vice versa, too, I'm sure. Yes, it's tough. It's tough mentally, because the virus we had, from talking to the guys, it was tough. But like I said, it pales in comparison to the rest of our country, as far as, hopefully, we get everybody back that went through it and everybody's healthy. They're doing all those tests to double check that and everything else. And we've just got to keep showing our mental toughness and discipline and wear our masks and stay six feet apart. I'm not just talking about our defense; I'm talking about all of us, because we can see what it does [and what] this virus can do."
WR Dez Bryant
About a week or so ago, we saw the picture of you signing the contract. Can you take us into that moment? Who told you that you were going to the active roster? What was going through your mind? (Daniel Oyefusi) "I was excited. Coach 'Harbs' [John Harbaugh], he hit me up that morning and told me about it. It was exciting for both of us. I'm just thankful. I was thankful for it."
When did the thoughts of a comeback first kind of enter your mind? When did you think it really was going to take hold? (Jamison Hensley) "Well, really, to be honest, it was my daughter. My daughter kept asking me [if I] was going to play football, and I just ignored the question. I was like, 'You know what, baby? I'm going to give it a go.' I started training. I started working out every day. I got myself to a point to where I felt like I could get back out there. I hit my agent up. My agent made a couple of calls. My agent got in touch with [executive vice president and general manager] GM Eric [DeCosta] and Coach [John] Harbaugh, and we made it happen. I'm extremely thankful. I'm thankful for Eric [DeCosta] and Coach [Harbaugh] for giving me this opportunity."
How do you feel to play against your former team? (Ximena Lugo-Latorre) "It's cool; it's kind of cool. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to it. A lot of those guys on the team I know; I'm real good friends with. [They're] hell of a [good] football players. Whenever we line up across from one another, I think it's going to be fun. Like I said, it's going to be an exciting moment."
Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager Jerry Jones said some really nice things about you last week. How is your relationship with Jerry? Can you tell us one of your more favorite stories about Jerry Jones as an owner? (Matthew Stevens) "One thing about [Dallas Cowboys owner, president and general manager] Mr. [Jerry] Jones is he's very passionate, [and] I'm very passionate. I think that's why our relationship clicked the way that it clicked. The one thing I'll always have for Mr. Jones is respect. I'm thankful that he drafted me and gave me the opportunity to play for his franchise – I'm very thankful for that. I'm a Texas boy, so I grew up a Cowboys fan. I'm thankful for that, but I'm here now. I'm excited to be a Baltimore Raven. I'm looking forward to going up against those guys on Tuesday."
You talk about your respect for your former team, obviously. Are there any hard feelings after they released you in 2018? Or is that all water under the bridge at this point? (Ryan Mink) "For the most part, it's water under the bridge. That's two years that I had time to get myself together. You have to move forward with life, because life [isn't] going to wait on you. Time waits on no one. So, I had to get myself together [and] move forward. I'm back in my hometown colors – the purple – [and] I'm excited about that. I'm here – I'm a Raven."
How have you felt physically? Do you think you'll have more of an expanded role on the offense going forward here over the last five games of the season? (Todd Karpovich) "I feel good physically. I think the coaches, they're doing what they feel is best for me, because sometimes I think I can bite off more than I can chew. But whatever they have for me, I'm going to be prepared for it. I'm excited. I'm going to let the coaches do what they feel is best, and I'm just going to follow their lead."
I know you just signed to the active roster recently, but what has been the most challenging part for you personally going through this whole process? (Gabi DiPaula) "Man, challenging … I'm going to be honest with you, I don't think anything is challenging. Like I said, I'm grateful and I'm thankful. Just to be in the locker room and be able to talk football, especially with some of these young guys, [and] to just teach, I think that's cool. I've been having fun with just doing that alone, and at the same time, getting myself prepared for any situation."