THURSDAY MEDIA AVAILABILITY: WEEK 8 at Panthers
Special Teams Coordinator/Associate Head Coach Jerry Rosburg
What did you see from CB/RS Cyrus Jones this past weekend on kick returns and punt returns?_ (Kyle Andrews)_ "Cyrus is our punt returner. What I saw was what I saw the first time out, really. I thought he caught the ball well, he's secure on the ball, he's confident under the ball. He had some yards on one of the returns. He took care of the ball. As I mentioned a week ago, also he's contributing in other ways: He's playing on kickoff return team, he's playing on our kickoff team, and he's playing gunner for us. Those are things that also add to his return value. He can play defense, [too]. Those are the kind of players we're looking for. He's really helped us since he's gotten here; we're happy to have him."
It seems like there has been a good number of penalties on extra points, whether it's trying to get a jump from the edge and going offsides, or the one OLB Za'Darius Smith was called for. Is there a common denominator? Are those the ones that really bother you?_ (Jeff Zrebiec) _"Well, yes, all penalties bother me. The penalty on the offsides call was close – I'll just leave it at that. The personal foul was not – that's a foul. There was an offseason emphasis put on protecting the long snappers on field goals, in particular, but punts as well. That is a perfect example that we as special teams coaches and the NFL office talked about how to protect the long snappers. Any contact to the head is going to be called. If there's a lot more of those called – we were meeting about it this morning – there are a lot more kickoffs on the 50-yard-line than there has been in recent years. It's a direct result of the special emphasis that the officials are placing on protecting the snapper. They also repositioned the umpire behind the line by the kicker, rather than on the defensive side of the line, so he can have better vision on leverage fouls and such. So, the rules haven't changed, but the officials are officiating them in a fashion that there are more fouls. It's an emphasis, and it's showing up, and it hurt us."
As K Justin Tucker tries to move past that missed extra point, what's your role as the special teams coordinator in helping him get past that? (Aaron Kasinitz) "I'm the coach, so I'm out there with him. I think Justin handled the situation post-game, in such a fashion, that I was very confident that he was going to handle the situation through the whole week. He got past it in the first hour after the game, in my view. Coming out here yesterday and practicing was the second big step. He had an excellent practice. It was 'business as usual,' so to speak. He worked hard; he had a good day. I think that helps players. It helps coaches, I know. After disappointment as a coach, the first thing you want to do is get back out there on the practice field and get back to work. After you're done with that day, it always helps you get over whatever disappointment you might be feeling. I think that was helpful as well. The other thing I think was helpful was [that] this is really a true team. I love our football team. You saw players from offense and defense and everyone making statements and genuinely embracing Justin in a time that he needed it. We all need it. He was disappointed, obviously. So that gives you an idea of what this team is made of." (Reporter: "If you don't mind with me following up. You said about an hour you realized he was going to be fine. Why?") "Yes, I heard what he had said in his press conference when he addressed you gentlemen and ladies directly, immediately and stood up. I was really proud of him for that. I think all of his teammates appreciate that, too, because they get in those situations as well when there's a dropped pass or a missed tackle or a blown coverage or whatever the situation might be. All athletes are put in that situation, and I really appreciated the way he responded."
Do you think the winds at M&T Bank Stadium have become a little more treacherous because of the new scoreboard configurations?_ (Childs Walker)_ "I think they've changed. I don't think the stadium affects the winds, the winds are affected by the stadium. The thing that we've noticed is they swirl more. Now, obviously the follow-up question is, 'Do I think that had an effect on the kick?' I think the kick itself … From standing where I was standing on the sideline, I watched it leave his foot, and my eyes went to the protection. The protection was excellent; the operation was excellent. When it came off his foot, I saw where it was going. I didn't have any doubt and was now turning head getting ready for the kickoff. So it surprised me what the result was. Now as to what the effects of the wind were on the kick is, it's impossible to know. Again, the operation, everything else looked good about it – but it didn't go in. Really, that's all that matters."
Understanding the element of surprise is always big when a fake is run, what didn't you like as far as how you handled that in the game? (Luke Jones)"I didn't like the coach's call on that play – that was the thing I didn't like. I put our defense and our punt return team in a bad call. Trying to be too aggressive, I made a mistake. It hurt us. It did. That's the coach's responsibility, and I let our players down in that regard."
LB Chris Board leads the team in special teams tackles. Is that what you anticipated from a rookie?_ (Ed Lee)_"We've had a number of players that have come in here that are undrafted rookie linebackers and have excelled on special teams and carved their way into the National Football League as starters for us or other teams. Chris Board is another in that long line. You can go back to Jameel McClain; I'm still showing plays of his when we're doing gameplans. Dannell Ellerbe, and Albert McClellan being our current guy, there's a number of them, and you all know their names. Chris Board has demonstrated the fact that he can run and hit, and he's athletic and he's tough and he wants to learn, wants to play well. His attention to detail is showing. The thing that I'm encouraged about is he's improving. He needs to improve, and he is, in fact, improving."
Closing statement: "If I can retrace ... I had a line that I prepared for that question about the PAT – so I don't want to leave the press conference without putting my preparation to work. You may be aware that was Justin's [Tucker] first miss. Since Justin came into the league, there have been 272 missed PATs by 54 placekickers in the National Football League. Justin has one [miss]. Have a nice day."
Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale
Opening statement: "Really pleased with our effort and how we attacked that game last week. Obviously, it didn't turn out the way we wanted to, but I was proud of the effort of our guys for three quarters of the game. In that fourth quarter, they had some scheme runs on us where they basically out-executed us. We need to stay focused and keep doing things right. Obviously, it was different, because it was the first time somebody scored on us in the [second] half. We just have to move on to our next challenge, which is Carolina. Everybody knows the challenges that they bring. But I'm really proud … I think I talked about the big three. I think that was the best game, since I've been here, with C.J. [Mosley] and coaching him. I think that was the best game I've ever seen him play. I know he was credited for 16 tackles, [but] we counted at least 20 on the tape. He was all over the place; he was playing fast. I look forward of seeing the matchup – it's not really a matchup – but the comparisons between him and Luke Kuechly this week. That's going to be a fun thing to watch."
What do you have to be most aware of with QB Cam Newton?_ (Childs Walker)"I heard [Eric] Weddle's description of him yesterday.(laughter)_ He's like a guy – which is crazy in the NFL, for all of us who have played sports … Remember when you were in like fifth or sixth grade, and that guy that had the beard drove to the game? That's what he's like as an NFL player. (laughter)I mean, he really is! We joked around with my wife, and I said, 'I've been watching scary movies all week getting ready for Halloween just watching his tape.' There's a reason why they call him 'Superman.' It's obviously a big challenge."
Given the specific challenges he presents, what do you have to pay attention to? (Childs Walker) "Everything. When he has the ball in his hands, every play we have to pay attention to everything. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Norv Turner. He's the one that brought me into this league. He's a very talented coordinator, and I know he will challenge us at every angle. He's been coaching for 100 years in this league, so he knows all the angles. It's going to be a similar challenge to what was last week with Sean Payton."
Does it surprise you when you see ILB C.J. Mosley take another step forward, like you said he did on Sunday, after he has already accomplished so much? (Garrett Downing) "It doesn't surprise me. I just wanted to acknowledge the fact that I think that was just the best game I've seen him play. The things that he does that other linebackers don't do in this league – which I'll leave that for everybody else to watch and see – I just think that he needs to be recognized for it. It doesn't surprise me, at all. I'm proud of him. He played very well."(Reporter: "How does he compare to a guy like Luke Kuechly?")"I know who I'm taking. You know who I'm taking."
DE Julius Peppers and OLB Terrell Suggs still put up production in their upper 30s. Beyond being freaks of nature physically, what is it that enables them to break the mold and still have that production at their age? _(Ryan Mink) _"I think you can go back to my training camp thing about, 'God touching people once, but they've both been touched twice.' You said, 'freaks of nature,' and that's the best description for it. It's unbelievable. With 'Sizz' [Suggs], obviously I've never been with Julius, what stands out to me is his leadership, his direction and his vision – which all of our visions match up with John's [Harbaugh]. But he's a great leader, a great stabilizer in that locker room at all times. It's fun to watch. [I'm] proud of him as well."
Do you look at OLB Terrell Suggs and say, "I think you could play for two, three more years," like DE Julius Peppers is doing at 38 years old now? (Ryan Mink)"Trust me, if he can do it, he'll do it. I think he's going to chase [Tom] Brady. I would not be shocked at all. I would not bet any money on it, because of what he's done and what 'Sizz' has shown."
WR D.J. Moore and WR Torrey Smith are both Maryland guys and have both come on the past couple weeks. What have you seen from them in terms of breaking out and being more involved?_ (Jonas Shaffer) "We all know Torrey from being here and what a great guy he is, father and in the community. What I see from Torrey … To me the difference – and maybe because I'm looking through a different lens now – but I think that he's really worked hard this offseason, and he looks faster and has a better base to him than what he has in the past. He's playing really well. The Moore kid – he's a rookie. Once he catches the ball, he becomes a definite threat running it. He has a lot of talent. We have to make sure to try to staple him to the ground, because he's really good after the catch." _(Reporter: "By 'base' do you mean …") "Just stronger, more balanced than what I've seen in the past. I'll be happy for him after the game, but I'm not happy about it now for Torrey."
What are the challenges of limiting a guy like RB Christian McCaffrey as a receiver and a running back? (Ed Lee) "Same challenges as we had last week with [No.] 41 [Alvin Kamara]. It's tough. He's a good football player."
With DT Willie Henry going out, potentially for the season, are you comfortable with the depth you have along the defensive line? How do you approach divvying out those snaps? (Jeff Zrebiec) "I think since we've already had a little practice with that, it'll be similar. It might be a little bit more for this guy or that guy because they're playing better than they were back then. But it'll be similar situation to what we had when Willie was out prior. John [Harbaugh] said that we might be able to bring him back at the end of the year – I'm not sure. I don't know the extent of the injuries. I don't talk about the injuries. We're just locked in on what we have and how we're going to do it right now."
DT Michael Pierce is one of the guys that on Pro Football Focus and some of the sites is rated pretty highly. Does that match up with what you guys have seen? (Aaron Kasinitz)"Oh yes. I mean, I don't know what 'PFF' and all the other sites [are saying]; I don't have a chance to read all that. Michael Pierce and 'Big Baby' [Brandon Williams] played their butts off, and they have [been great]. They've been playing well for a nice three-, four-week run. I know Mike has been banged-up in and out, but 'Big Baby' has been playing at a high level. Mike has as well."
What have you seen from DE Chris Wormley this season?_ (Cliff Brown)_ "He has progressed in a lot of different ways, and really in the last three weeks, you're seeing him take off a little bit. I said we need to put some gunpowder in his food a little bit coming back from his rookie year, and he's definitely … He's playing a physical brand of football. He's 'Playing Like A Raven,' if you will. His pad level has been down. He's been doing a lot of good things."
TE Greg Olsen has had a quiet return the past two games. What does he bring? (Ed Lee) "I mean, he's an All-Pro, Pro Bowler, probably Hall of Fame tight end, that hurt his foot. You can see each week that he gets better. We know how good he is, trust me. So, they have some weapons, obviously, starting with [No.] 1 [Cam Newton]. Then you guys can just keep mentioning them, so I'm going to go throw up after this is over." (laughter)
Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg
Opening statement:"Last ball game, I was proud of the two rookie offensive linemen – first start. They did a heck of a job for the most part. Our team is tough-minded. At the end we were up, what, 17-7, and down 24-17, and then [we had] the comeback. So, we're a tough-minded group, tough physically. 'One more,' is what I told the fellas. One more. One more third down. What were we, 2-of-3 on fourth down? One more. One more good play called by me. One more good play typically would earn points, so it's just that simple. That's what we needed. Joe [Flacco] played pretty well. The receiver group played pretty well. The tight ends played pretty well. I'd like to get '81' [Hayden Hurst] going just a little bit. Hayden, I'm talking about. We'll stay after the run game. That was a short game as well, as far as number of opportunities. So, we had, what did we have, I believe it was eight [possessions], and we scored on half of them. Well, one more, right? One more. And, two of those series were filled with passes, because of two-minute [situations]. So, you look at that and you go, 'Geez!' So, there were only a select few plays there to get some other things going within the normal gameplan, so it was an unusual game that way. I'm proud of the guys, and then just one more, and so that's where we're at."
You mentioned trying to get TE Hayden Hurst going. What do you think have been the hurdles trying to get him more involved? (Jeff Zrebiec) "Me. When he became available, we have a rookie that's never played in a league game coming off of a major injury, a little rust, so there was more of a long-term plan. Much of that is me, and so we'll keep this thing coming, and he has to prepare and work hard in practice and all those things. It'll come. I've got no question about that."
You've been putting QB Lamar Jackson into some pressure situations on the field. What have you seen, as far as his growth over the regular season? _(Jamison Hensley) _"Very good, and [I have] great trust in all of our players. Man, is he working hard. Hard work. James [Urban, quarterbacks coach] and he – and I think I mentioned this last week – and 'RG' [Robert Griffin III] go down there after practice for, man alive, 20, 30 minutes in most cases, and work the quarterback part of it. And then on the edges, he'll help us win some games here doing some other things for the ball club."
Fans want to know what the benefit is of having QB Joe Flacco stay on the field when QB Lamar Jackson is under center? (Ryan Mink) _"That's good, that's a good question. (laughter)_ Been there, done it. Joe is the quarterback of this football team. I don't like taking him off the field. Now, there may come a time, and there are some other benefits that I won't get into of keeping him on the field and all those things. But yes, there is an endless amount of possibilities that you can do with two quarterbacks on the field, so that's where we're at, and we'll try to take advantage of that."
What did you think of the offensive line on Sunday, how they played with two rookies? (Brent Harris) _"Yes, they did a heck of a job, now, and that was a long week, because I spent a lot of time thinking about certain things and the matchups and all of those things, and they did a heck of a job. I'm proud of those two guys. Orlando [Brown Jr.], heck of a job. He's a heck of a player, and he's growing – not growing size-wise. _(laughter) Big dude. And then [Bradley] Bozeman; this guy gets injured, comes back and really, if you look at it the last several plays, he was hurting, big time. Probably should have had him out if I would have known that, but what a battler, and he got his job done. I'm proud of those two guys."
I saw a stat that you guys led the league in pass protection. Do you feel like they can also do that in the running game? Do you feel that this group is making strides to be able to push downfield? (Brent Harris)"Yes, we're going to stay after that part of it. I have great confidence in that part that it will come. Now, talking about the two rookie offensive linemen in their first start and all of those things, you have to give it to the other guys up there as well. The communication was on-point. The practices and the preparation, all those guys were involved. Singularly, a man can play really well, but that unit has to play well together to make the thing work, and they really did a nice job of that. I was proud of them."
You mentioned the run game, it will come, it will come, it will come. What has to happen for it to come? _(Brent Harris) _"There are many things that have to happen, and we've identified them, and we're going to keep working them, keep working them. And, I have great confidence in that part of it. I will say, except for one bad call – I put a man in a bad spot – situationally, our running game has been really good in the field part. Just in the normal [situations, it] has not been quite as good as we would expect. So, that gives me great confidence that situationally, we're doing some pretty good things in the run game. I'm talking about backed up, four-minute [situations], in the red zone, down on the goal line, all those things. So, that gives me confidence that it will come."
QB Lamar Jackson and Panthers QB Cam Newton are obviously built differently, but they're both dual threats, both blessed with great arms. What specifically about Cam's game is worth of emulation for Lamar as he continues his development? _(Jonas Shaffer) _"Cam is a special player, unique player, really, really good quarterback. And he has developed himself. And coming out, he really threw the ball well, and at some point in this league, you have to become really a good pocket passer. He did that, and he did it really early, and then he has all of the other things. Yes, that's a good man for Lamar to look at."
Tight ends in general have had a hard time as rookies in recent years making an immediate impact. A lot of guys make a huge jump to Year 2. Is it just the various responsibilities, whether it's blocking, routes, all that stuff, some sort of difference in the college game? What are your thoughts of why that's kind of been the case? _(Jeff Zrebiec) _"There are several things that pop into the front of my mind on that, and I think you hit it pretty well there. Many colleges, not all, but many of them, don't even play in line anymore, so that's a big adjustment for the fellas, even when they have the skill and ability and size and strength to do it. So, that's the first thing. The second thing is, we ask tight ends – I know we do, and most teams in this league – to block like a tackle, to run routes and adjust to coverage and catch the ball like a receiver, and then when they do catch it, catch and run like a runner, and then the pass protection. So, we ask so much of the tight ends in this league, that in many cases in college they're not asked to do. So, you're right, some, much of it is experience and reps."
ILB C.J. Mosley
On if he feels like he's playing better since returning from the injury:"Yes, I think as a team that we all feel better, because we started out having the Thursday night game, having a couple different times for our games, so we kind of got in a rhythm, as far as our schedules. Guys are getting their bodies right, so it's time to get going again, going into November, December. So, we have to make sure that we keep our momentum going."
On if QB Cam Newton's size and mobility pose unique problems:"He has a lot of plays where it's called for him to run the ball, and we definitely know he can scramble and make big plays. But, he's just like a running back once he starts moving with the ball, so we just have to make sure we tackle him the right way."
On if boxing in the quarterback works less because of QB Cam Newton's ability to run:"Not too much. Like I said, he does have plays where he's designed to run the ball, so it's going to be hard to kind of keep him in the pocket when he's running inside, so we just have to make sure we stay square. They have a lot of motions and shifts they can do to try to get the linebackers moving in the wrong way. They get one guy gapped out, and that's how their offense can be difficult, especially with a technique defense like we have, because one guy can be in the wrong spot and they can break a big play. So, we just have to make sure we stay square, use great technique when he's running the ball."
On if he relishes a game playing on the same field as ILB Luke Kuechly:"Not really, no. I'm more focused on what we have to do, as far as the defense, mainly. The plays will always come if we're doing the right thing. I feel like if we just, like we always say, we have to do what we do best. They just have to do their best to try and stop it, and we have to do our best to try to stop what they do."
On where ILB Luke Kuechly ranks in his estimation of top inside linebackers: "He's definitely one of the top linebackers. He sets a standard, definitely, since I got in the league, and he was doing that before, I guess, a few years before I got to the league. When guys talk about the leading linebackers, he's always one of the names that pops up. I consider myself in that top category, too, but mainly for me, I just make sure I'm doing my job for my guys. I don't really try to compare what he does best with what I do best, because at the end of the day, everybody has their own style of play."
On how it feels to have people say he belongs in the same group as ILB Luke Kuechly:"It feels good, I guess. (laughter) It is what it is. My hat is off to him. All linebackers, I feel, should be up there in that category. That's one of the tougher jobs, especially on defense. Like they always say, you're the quarterback of the defense, and more power to you if you can be out there all four downs and make a lot of problems on the offense."
On if he thinks inside linebackers should get more credit in a pass-heavy league:"It's kind of like the O-line; even though they do get paid top dollars, too, they do all the dirty work, and you don't really see it that much. [Other positions] are all about the big plays: making interceptions, throwing touchdowns, catching touchdowns, getting sacks. So for the inside linebackers, we're just the interior guys doing the dirty work, which I don't mind. And, I feel like if you hold yourself to a high standard and you have a tougher game play that can allow you to make big plays, then you get rewarded for it."
On if last week's game against the Saints was the best he's ever played: "I felt good. I feel like I've had great games before, some better than others, as far as stats go, but I felt fast. Going out there in pre-warmups, I had a good feeling about the game. I was just happy to be able to make a lot of plays. So just like I said, try to keep that momentum going."