Opening Remarks:We added Tony Ugoh to the injury report. He rolled his ankle a little bit – wasn't able to come back and go today. That was practice yesterday. We put Corey Webster on it for a sore hamstring. So we didn't do much with him today.
Q: Can you tell anything from practice in a week like this?A: Yeah. You can tell a lot from practice.
Q: Is practice directly correlated to the game?A: I think it is. I think it grows, to be honest with you. It moves along, this being Thursday. The energy and the excitement are even stronger than yesterday and that's the way I think it works. I think it goes along. Tomorrow will be a very upbeat day, good tempo.
Q: Do you talk to the players who haven't played in the postseason?A: You talk to them all about everything you can. You have to really teach as much as possible to everyone and then it filters down through to the younger guys who have never been through it. We've got 15 or so people that have been there and hopefully as we go through situations and circumstances they can make comparisons. Then they can deal directly with the young guys – to tell them exactly what that's about.
Q: How much does an effective pass rush help?A: First, you have to stop the run. If you can stop the run and put them in a position to throw the football, which they will – they've done a great job of that all year – that gives you a chance or an opportunity to rush the passer and they've done an excellent job. They started the year giving up some sacks. They've only given up 26 sacks for the entire season. The quarterback has mobility. They do protect well, but we would have an opportunity to rush the passer.
Q: Did you ever think that you'd have offensive stats so pass-heavy?A: A lot of times you do what you have to do. You make the adjustments and so-on and so-forth. I think we've had four or five games in a row where we've had pretty good balance and that's the way we like to play. In circumstances where it wasn't so obvious that we could run, we'd do whatever we had to do. The quarterback naturally has responded very well to that.
Q: What went through your mind when you had four healthy defensive ends on the field last week?A: Just what we planned for. We would have four people that it would be very difficult to block them all up. You might have an opportunity to double a couple of them, but somebody is going to get singled in there and you hope when that happens you're going to get someone free.
Q: How will a cold and wet day affect the game?A: I can only speak for our team. We would try to go in with our exact plan, not make a lot of changes. We've played in inclement weather. We've played in rain. We've played in it all before. We would try to stick with our plan and then we'd have to adjust according to how bad the situation was.
Q: How is Deon Grant as a leader?A: He's a very solid man. He's a very solid guy. He's done a good job here this year. He speaks only really to things that are important and the guys listen to him. That's what you want. He's got his ear to know exactly the tenor of the team, if you will, and what we're trying to accomplish, what we need to do. He's been very helpful.
Q: Is there a higher level for you personally when the playoffs start?A: I'll tell you what, it's exciting. When you're sitting there late at night, it's exciting.
Q: Does it mean anything to you when you see the loyalty the players show you – they talk about wanting to play for you and wanting to win for you?A: It certainly means a lot. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it. Usually that comes, as you know, later – when players begin to say things like that about their experience with their coach. I don't know all of the details about that because I don't do much of that this time of year, but Mr. Hanlon has informed me about a couple of these circumstances. That's why you coach, to be honest with you. That's what it's all about. It's all about that back and forth, that relationship and trying to be the best that you can be. I think this is the way you go about it.
Q: How much more have the players chatted each other up in the last couple of weeks?A: We try to have that element all year long, but I can sense it as the critical stage because we had to win to keep the dream alive. Then I think that's when I noticed it the most.
Q: Is it picking up this week also?A: It's been very, very steady, very consistent the last three weeks.
Q: Do you appreciate this more because you missed the playoffs the last two years?A: No. Just stay focused. Stay dealing with the moment, with what you can accomplish right now. There's little time for any of that stuff right now.
Q: How would you describe the leadership right now?A: I think this is the best we've been, at this point in time of the year. I think our defensive players have done a good job of getting that going again – that fundamental element that we so desperately need – number one is by example. The greatest gift you can give to anyone is a good example. And that's been there, certainly over the last couple of weeks. So I think it's at its highest point right now. We've been very, very steady in some areas and in some ways. Eli has been, as he always is, very, very, very steady in that regard. People always respect what he says and what he does. I've seen more of it. Special teams, although a lot of younger guys, the older guys that are involved with that have done a pretty good job of that as well.
Q: When did you know Cruz was going to be this kind of player?A: He starts making plays and he just kept making them. He's just gotten better and better. It's a pretty good story.
Q: How's Ballard coming along?A: He worked well today. I think he came through it pretty good. We won't know until tomorrow morning, but I think he did work well today.
Q: Have you seen defenses game plan for Cruz?A: We've seen some of that, yeah. If Hakeem is humming and Mario's doing a good job on the other side and we get some work in the middle of the field out of the tight end position and we can run it a little bit, situationally, it certainly can be done and we've seen it. At Dallas they doubled all three receivers down in the green zone. So we've seen that.
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