Head Coach Joe Judge
Opening Statement: We'll continue our preparation for the Bears today. We'll make sure we review all situations, get in the red area, hit all the big four and continue on going. Keep it quick and direct and to the point today, so any questions you may have.
Q: COVID stuff?
A: Really no change from yesterday. We're still expecting (Safety Julian) Love back in the building on Sunday. (Defensive Lineman) Danny Shelton, we'll see where he is in terms of the game. I wouldn't rule him in or out at this point. We'll see how he is and the trainers will deal with him.
Q: Love will be able to travel with you?
A: Yes. From everything we understand, yes.
Q: How are you feeling? Old? Happy Birthday.
A: (Laughs). Appreciate it, thank you. Trying to keep that quiet most of the day, so I appreciate it.
Q: The workout you guys are doing next week with some O-linemen, is that for looking at futures and guys to bring in long-term? Is that also addressing Week 18?
A: It's a combination of both. It's a look at who's out there as far as the futures and see if we can go ahead and fill any roster spots going forward before we get to free agency and the draft, as well as who may be available next week. We've got to make sure that we go ahead and look and make sure we have depth for the game next week. If that's something that we think we can add and they can give a contribution, we'll consider that, as well.
Q: Interior and tackle? Like, across the board?
A: Yeah, good mix. Looking at who's out there and bringing as many as we can that we think will work with that.
Q: Do you know who's going to be your starting quarterback Sunday?
A: We'll decide that after today's practice. Both guys will take reps and we'll see going on through practice.
Q: It sounded like you are less committed to actually putting both in the game plan than you were earlier in the week. Is that accurate?
A: We'll let both guys work right now. Again, if we think that there's something that's more suited to one of the guys, we have no problem putting in a certain package for them, but we'll come out of today's practice and see what will make the best decision for the team.
Q: With COVID being the way it is now and so prevalent, do you change the way you approach practice reps at all these last few weeks? Do you have to give guys – even if they're not starting or second- or third-teamers – more reps in practice just in case because you never know what can pop up on Saturday, Sunday or whatever?
A: The answer to that is yes for a variety of reasons. We're always trying to make sure that all of our guys mix in and that's through any point in the year, not directly just because of COVID. But obviously with the heightened awareness of the availability of players and the lack of availability of players on such a quick turnaround notice, make sure that everyone stays very involved with all the units and build as much chemistry as you can. We always do what we call 'basic' at the end of practice. When you guys are out here and wait for guys at the podium, we try to get all the young players, the practice squad players, guys new to the program, guys who just need extra reps. Maybe it's an opportunity for another quarterback to just get used to breaking the huddle, the operation at the line of scrimmage. We take time every day to make sure we just get as much basic work and that's just extra work on the field. Sometimes it's full-team, sometimes it's seven-on-seven, sometimes extra individual work, whether it's O-line versus D-line, receivers-DBs, whatever it may be. But we're always looking to go ahead and build in as many reps as we can for the guys. Reality is with the numbers being where they are, sometimes you can hit more reps at high tempo, sometimes you have to go ahead and make things more of almost a walkthrough for team exchange and then get your team reps at tempo, more competitive offense versus defense. We found a good, happy medium with the availability of certain players and how we've made that work. Getting a lot of really good service looks from our starters for each other and they've done a really good job. (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) is out there doing a really good job playing (Cornerback Aaron) Robinson in some of the packages for some of these guys on defense, giving really good looks. We've got a number of guys playing a lot of different positions. It's actually an opportunity a lot of times to work other schemes and systems. We had (Running Back) Saquon (Barkley) earlier in the year when we played the Saints doing some of (Saints Running Back Alvin) Kamara's routes and that's something we looked at and said, 'Hey, we've got to start implementing more things for Saquon in more of a flexed out, built out role.' Actually tied in more to that game, put him in the empty set, we end up hitting him for the go route down the sideline. Saw the next week against Dallas, we hit the slant. That was the one he actually injured his ankle on, but in terms of using him more in space and running routes and letting him use his talent.
Q: Is (Wide Receiver) Kadarius's (Toney) shoulder season-ending?
A: There's nothing at this point that would lead us to believe that. He wouldn't be officially ruled out at this point is what the trainers (say). See if there's a chance to get him on the field with the guys. Today he's been in meetings and walkthroughs fully engaged. We'll see if he can go out there and function on the field with the team.
Q: Is it odd how many different injuries he's had this year?
A: I think it's a long season and I'd also say the other thing too is for any of these young players the first time going through a season of this length – training camp, preseason games, 17 regular season games – their bodies really aren't used to it, that's just the truth. That's for any player in any year in any program. That's no different. You talk about that rookie wall and different things they have to face. This year having a little bit less time for different reasons or less exposure for different reasons puts more of a challenge on some of the young players as well to kind of get acclimated to this season length. It takes these guys really a full year to get used to the rigors of an entire NFL season and get their bodies used to it. The other thing, most of these guys aren't used to early in the season knowing how hard you have to work to get your body back. You see some of these older guys, the (Defensive Back) Logan Ryans, the (Tight End) Kyle Rudolphs, these guys who have been in it for years. They live in the training room. It's not that they're on an injury report because they're hurt, they live in the training room for preventative measures. How they prepare for practice with the hot tubs, the cold tubs, the VibraFlex, the extra roll-outs, the strength coaches, everything they can use to get ready for practice and recover from practice. These young guys are really just used to tying their shoes and going out and going. They have to learn that it's not that easy. You get to this level, you have to work to stay physically fresh, that it's a long season. No one is 100 percent after the first snap, that's the reality. Once you start training camp, no one is, again, 100 percent for the entire rest of the year. Learning how to play through some ailments, through some bumps and bruises, learning how to go ahead and manage your body, these are all things that you have to learn over time.
Q: Does the wind in Chicago affect your quarterback decision? Do you factor that in and say, 'We might need the bigger-armed quarterback here in this situation'?
A: Any time you play in a weather game, there are a lot of things that are affected, not just necessarily adjustments to your game plan, but then in-game how you call it. That's offense, defense and the kicking game and whether that's just the cold with how that can limit sometimes the ability to throw the ball down the field, because it does sometimes based on the grip. If it's the wind factor that eliminates the opportunity to flip the field in the kicking game. If it's the cold, it takes away the hang time against a dangerous returner. There are a lot of things you have to factor in. The difference in field goal range when you get into these cold games, the wind games, different factors that play on in. Based on what the field looks like – I know there's a chance of snow going out there, they've got a heated field, so it's probably going to play out more if the field is covered. Like some kind of a slick rain, that's naturally a slick turf out there anyway. You watch a lot of the games, you go back and watch the rain game against Arizona when these guys played them a few weeks back. That's probably close to what we're going to be looking at from the moisture on the field and just some challenges with the ball handling. But you watch a lot of guys on that field planting off the wrong foot, slipping and falling. There's also a lot of guys getting their toes stuck in the ground and falling on their face. It happened in the Minnesota game as well on their field, a lot of guys getting caught up in that turf. We've gone through everything with the tape, talking to our guys about the conditions out there, the weather, how games are changed this time of year, how the games are called differently, the importance of running and making sure you get your feet up as you move and not getting caught on the turf, planting off the correct foot, playing with good knee bend. All those little fundamental things, they all come into play. When I start talking about the weather, a lot of the players look at me and they start rolling their eyes like, 'Alright, old people talk about the weather, that's what this guy's doing.' But the reality is you've got to understand how the game changes and it is situationally played differently in some of these games.
Q: And you are 40, so.
A: I am a man now, I am 40 (laughs).
Q: Are you disappointed you haven't had any bad weather practices this season?
A: You know what, we really haven't had much rain. We haven't had the snow yet this year to really practice in. Rain, blood, mud, whatever it's going to be, we're going to be outside. I always kind of cheer a little bit more for the weather. The players kind of laugh a little bit because I'll come in sometimes and it's raining in the morning and I'll say, 'Hey, get your stuff on, be ready for this. Let's talk about the fundamentals with what we're going to do in the weather,' and we come out and all of a sudden it's sunny. Last year, we had the opportunity to work in a lot of rain and we had some snow at the end of the year. This year we just haven't had that. We had some heat back in training camp and that's great, but you really want to go ahead and use every piece of the elements you can get, the heat, the humidity, the wind – we get a fair amount of wind out here, that's something we can always work with, the wind. You want to play in the rain. You want to play in the snow. You want to have sloppy turf here than use the stadium at other times to have the slickness of the artificial turf and get the feel for all the surfaces.
Q: What's the harm in giving (Quarterback Brian) Lewerke a chance to play quarterback at this point? Or is he just such a young, developmental player?
A: I think Brian's done a really good job this year of working and doing everything we've asked him to do. I think he responded well in the preseason on short notice of prepping. He did some nice things for us in the Cleveland preseason game. He's a guy that's come out and competed. He's learned. I've definitely seen some improvement from him. He's a developing player. I think he's far away from where he's going to be as a finalized player as he goes through his career. I think he's on track to do some positive things and really put himself in a position in his career to be competitive and have a role on a roster. At this time, he's on our practice squad. As far as the roster moves we're making right now, we don't anticipate making one specifically at that position for the remainder of the year. That doesn't rule out anything in the future with Brian as well, though. I'm pleased with the way he worked this year.
Q: How's (Offensive Lineman) Billy Price doing and do you expect to be back this weekend or are you guys giving him – is he taking the weekend off or time off?
A: I know he posted something on social media. That's his to disclose, that's not mine to talk about. We fully support Billy, fully support Billy as an organization, him and his wife as just individuals and their family and what they're going through right now. We left the door open to Billy in a lot of ways in terms of whatever he needs from us. When I talked to him earlier in the week, I let him know, 'Hey, listen, if you've got to come in here and let this be a distraction, if you want to stay engaged with the game plan, if you want to come out and practice and blow off some steam and hit the weight room, whatever you've got to do.' He's dealing with something that a lot of us have been blessed that we haven't had to deal with. He's going through something personally that we've got to make sure we account for and give him support as an organization, as a person. I wouldn't fully rule him out at this moment, but he has not been at practice with us. He's not been in-person in the meetings. The Zoom's been available to him, but we're letting him and his wife right now have the time they need and fully supporting him in what they're going through.
Cornerback James Bradberry
Q: You guys had so many turnovers earlier in the season, I think it was eleven straight games. Why have they been so hard to come by in the last month or so?
A: I think for me, I've just been dropping mine. I haven't been catching them. That's the reason why we haven't had any turnovers for me, personally.
Q: How about just as a unit? You guys were doing really well there early on.
A: I think it's somewhat on the offenses that we've been playing. I know we played Miami, they ran a lot of quick game and whatnot, so it's pretty hard to create some turnovers against an offense like that. We had some close ones last week, but of course we weren't able to pull those in, like the one with (Defensive Back) Steven Parker and then mine towards the back of the end zone. So, we've been close, we just haven't come down with them.
Q: I know the season hasn't gone the way you guys wanted it to go. I'm just kind of curious with regard to (Head Coach Joe) Judge, how do you feel like the players have responded to him, particularly in these difficult times as you guys have struggled? And as a second thing, his 40th birthday was today. I wonder if there was any acknowledgement of that during practice, Zooms, or anything with him?
A: We wished Coach Judge a happy birthday at the end of practice. I think we've got some good guys on this team. I mean, we know it's not from a lack of effort. We actually go out there and we put a lot of effort on the field, whether that's during the week or during the game, so we just try to keep our heads in it week-in and week-out and try approach every day like it's a new day to where we can get better.
Linebacker Azeez Ojulari
Q: Just had a quick question, regarding your rookie season. (Head Coach) Joe Judge talked today about how it's tough on the body, first time going through a training camp, playing a 17-game season. You're almost at the end of the year, you've stayed healthy throughout the entire season. What were some of the biggest challenges playing in your first NFL season? How were you able to stay healthy throughout the year?
A: Man, I just thank God. I'm just blessed to be healthy right now and just going out there and competing every week, sticking to the script, sticking to my schedule. Everyone has their own schedule – sticking to it and doing it every single day, every single week just to make sure my body's good because it's a long season and you've got to prepare and stay to the script, and I've been doing that.
Q: You have eight sacks so far, obviously there's a big difference between, eight, nine, 9.5 and then getting to 10. What would it mean to you to get to double digits?
A: I'm just working every week, every single game. Sack or not, just trying to get to the quarterback and impact the game as much as I can. If it happens, it happens. I'm just focusing on winning, so that's the main thing, trying to win and get the dub at the end of the day.
Q: I have two unrelated questions, the first is about your head coach. I know you've been used to winning in college and obviously this is not the season you guys were looking for. As you guys have struggled a bit, how do you feel like Joe has handled the locker room and how do you feel like you guys have responded to him?
A: I think we're good. We're good. Everyone's staying together as brothers. We've been together the whole year and the whole season, so we're comfortable. We've just got to keep working. Just go back to the locker room, go back to the field and you just go back to work, look at what you've got to fix, stay together as a team because if you're family, you're going to stay together. I feel like that's what we are here, so staying together.
Q: What are the things that he's done to try to manifest that to try to keep guys together when a lot of times teams can fracture?
A: We're here in the building every day working together. We're all here at squad, team meetings, on the field, off the field just meeting with your boys. Everyone's together. We love each other around here. We love hanging around each other and so we stay together as a team.
Q: This is a question regarding (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams. He's obviously been going through a lot of stuff physically, trying to stay on the field and he continues to do it, particularly here in a season when you're not going to the playoffs. What have you learned from him? How much have you admired the way he's kind of persevered through this stuff and what do you take for yourself out of that?
A: Yeah, his toughness, how he plays the game no matter what. Even if he's injured, he's still going to be out there. He's a tough guy, smart, physical dude, so he's going to push it to the limit. If he's out there, why not give it your all for him? He's giving it all for the team, so why not give it all for your brother out there on the field? Why not go hard? You see him going out there, that just motivates people and encourages us to go even harder. He's not 100 percent and he's out there.
Running Back Devontae Booker
Q: (Head Coach) Joe Judge talked today about rookie players and young players in the league making sure they can get their bodies right for a long season, not really experiencing that before. You being a veteran, how did you deal with that in the first couple years of your career and how have you adjusted to that as your career has gone on?
A: I just learned that it was important to get all the body work and use our training facility, our trainers and everything like that and get my body done, whether that was through massages or hot tubs and stuff like that. That's really been a key part in me staying healthy and going in week by week throughout the long season.
Q: With regard to your coach, Joe Judge, there has been a lot of heat as this season has gone on and you guys have endured some losses. How do you feel like he's handled things? How have you guys responded to him during the most difficult of the times?
A: Really with us we just keep working. That's the only way that we can do it and control what we can control at this point. Everything hasn't gone our way this year, but the only way to keep trying to get better is going in and working hard each week, and just staying the course.
Q: What are some of the things that you feel like Joe has done that you guys have responded to or just to keep you guys working that hard?
A: He's been doing a good job with just keeping us motivated to go out there and play these games. It can get very discouraging with losing games, being on a losing streak. For him to keep us motivated to go out there and continue to go and play hard week after week is all we can ask for.
Q: I wonder what goes through your mind when you're looking out there at practice this week and the wide receiver position out there – there's no Shep (Wide Receiver Sterling Shepard), (Wide Receiver Kadarius) Toney hasn't been practicing. From the starters, it's really (Wide Receiver) Kenny (Golladay) and a whole bunch of practice squad guys. What was that like this week to look out there and see that at the wide receiver position?
A: It's kind of really been no different. This whole year we've been dealing with injuries all over the offense. Just seeing those guys like Shep and KT not out there this week and everything, it's really hasn't been different because those guys have been out there practicing and playing for us almost all year really. We wish that those other guys were healthy to play, but in this game, no one is ever healthy.
Q: Can you put your finger on anything of why that's been that way? In the locker room, how do you guys look at it? Do you just look at it as bad luck or is there something else to it you think?
A: Not even. It's the game of football. We're all out there each week putting our bodies on the line and I wouldn't say it's any bad luck or anything like that. You can't pinpoint why guys get injured.
Q: What do you make of your numbers this year – coming up on some career-highs – and if it means anything to you that you could wind up leading the team in rushing yards this year?
A: Honestly, I'm just working my butt off each day, just playing ball and having fun out there. I don't really look at the stats or anything too much like that. I don't even know my rushing numbers or stats like that, period. I just go out and do what the team needs me to do, and just run hard and just play hard every week. That's the only thing I can do.
Cornerback Jarren Williams
Q: Have you had a chance to look at the past month or so – to go from where you were to where you have been in the last two games and kind of absorb all of that or are you focused on the day to day?
A: Yeah, you've just got to play it day by day. Things happens week to week with guys going down, so you've just got to stay ready. When that opportunity came, I treated every week like I was going to play, so I was prepared myself for that moment.
Q: Do you feel like with the opportunities that you've been given, you have earned a role in the rotation maybe more than you did before you got on the field?
A: Really, that's not my call. That's up to the coaches, but whatever is asked of me, I'm ready for it going forward, yeah.
Q: With regard to (Defensive Lineman) Leonard Williams who has been going through some physical stuff this year and stayed in the lineup. What has that shown you this year and what have you learned out of watching him operate and play through stuff?
A: I'm not too sure what he's been fighting through, I just know he's been banged up pretty bad. Seeing a guy compete at a high level every week, that's a lot of respect and it makes me kind of want to follow suit. You've got guys like that putting it all on the line every week. Even with the way this season's been going, he's still battling out there, not really tapping out. So, a lot of respect for him.
Q: As a small school guy, you talk about the mindset you have to bring in as an undrafted, small school guy. You're competing against guys from big schools, high draft picks and things. How do you think you did with that? Is it always kind of an uphill, underdog mentality?
A: No, not really. It's just believing in my own ability. I can't get too caught up on the narrative of like, it's being hard for small school guys to make it, or we can't compete with Power Five or anything like. I can't get too caught up in that. I just at the end of the day, just have got to believe in my own ability and that I belong here.
Q: Some of your teammates and coaches have said that you were pretty aggressive from the start which often does not happen with a small school cornerback. Is that just your mentality that if you're going to be here, you're going to go down or come up swinging sort of thing?
A: That's kind of how I was taught to play the game. My dad taught me to play that way, always aggressive. This is an opportunity for me, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, I just can't let it slip away, so I've got to do everything I can to stay.
Q: With regards to (Head Coach) Joe Judge, I'm curious how you've seen him handle these difficult times as you've been losing. I know you haven't been around here a long time, but how has he kept you guys motivated and how do you feel like you guys respond to him during these tough times with the losing games?
A: Everybody in the building has got a lot of pride. We're all pros in the sense to where we want to win. Nobody's throwing in the towel. Yeah, we might have been eliminated from the postseason, but nobody is throwing in the towel. We've still got two games left that we're trying to win – especially with this one coming up.
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