Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Statement: Rhett (Ellison) and Evan (Engram) won’t go. They just couldn’t quite make it, so they’ll be out. Then the other guys that we’ve been talking about (Sterling Shepard, Janoris Jenkins, Nate Solder), there’s no reason they shouldn’t be cleared here. They just need to finish the last steps of the protocol and then they’ll be available. I’ll take your questions.
Q: With what happened to Shep where he got cleared and then he had symptoms again, do you treat that as an isolated thing? Or even after they’re cleared, the next couple of days you have to monitor them more closely?
A: It’s like anything. Each injury, each recovery from injury, is different but we’re anticipating that he’ll be ready to go.
Q: The last time when it happened with Shep, how much did that change things for you guys?
A: Well, you’re getting a guy ready to play, he’s involved in the plan. Then all of a sudden, he’s not. It gives a guy an opportunity to step up and get more reps but it happens. You adjust to it.
Q: I guess a better question would be is there apprehension because of what happened the last time or just because the way the protocol is set up, it’s just kind of accepted that that’s what you have to do?
A: It’s a good question. You don’t want it to happen again. But based on how he’s trained and everything to this point, there’s nothing for us to say he won’t clear and be ready to play. At some point, you just have to trust it and then deal with it if it doesn’t work out.
Q: Going into game 11, you still have not had all of your starting offensive weapons at the skilled positions once. Has that ever happened in your career?
A: I don’t know. Probably not.
Q: It’s pretty incredulous when you think about it.
A: Yeah, but again, it gives other guys opportunities. I feel like it’s important we spread the ball around. We certainly have to run the ball much better than we did last week, which goes without saying. We have to function well as an offense, whether we throw it or we run it, no matter who’s in there.
Q: With what you’ve seen in practices and whatnot, does this locker room feel like a group of guys that are on a six-game losing streak? What are you seeing there?
A: No, that gets talked about when I answer the questions. It doesn’t feel like that to me. No, to answer your question. These guys work extremely hard. They go into the weekend prepared to play. Now we have to go out and do it, and I think that’s the challenge. Go out and win a game. Then when you win two, it’s a winning streak.
Q: How much do you look into the fact that Daniel (Jones) hasn’t played much in cold weather, and do you do anything about that?
A: Well, we practice out in the weather. It was a little bit cold today. You try to simulate it as much as you can, the situations or the elements that you’re going to play in. We don’t talk about it all that much.
Q: How’s Evan doing by the way? Engram.
A: I just said he was out.
Q: I know he’s out. Did he have a setback? He was hopeful that he was possibly going to be back this week.
A: He didn’t have any setbacks. He was hopeful that he could make it back. He did everything we asked. He’s hopefully on track to be back soon. He just wasn’t quite ready this week.
Q: Has he started running yet?
A: Yeah, he’s done some running.
Q: The medical decisions are out of your hand with Sterling and the other guys. Does his situation, is it extra, I don’t know if scary is the right word, but concerning just because of what happened this year as you guys decide how to treat him moving forward?
A: What do you mean concerning?
Q: Was what happened with him a little scary for lack of a better word?
A: The actual concussion or his return from the concussion?
Q: Well, what happened with him having that setback.
A: You just deal with it. We talk every day, or almost every day, so you see as we go through this process, there’s things you deal with. You deal with it and make the best of it and you get the next guy ready to go. I guess the longer I do this, there are less and less surprises in terms of putting the final roster together.
Q: Does the fact that there is this protocol and these medical experts that kind of take that decision out of your hands, as a coach, do you like to not have to make that kind of call? In the old days, the coach might have had more power over that kind of thing.
A: Well, in the case of concussions, these are serious injuries that we have to handle in a serious way. There are experts that tell you what’s best, there are experts that tell you that they can or can’t play and then you just roll with it.
Q: If he is cleared though, do you look at as he’s just good to go fully, or do you still want to maybe hold back a little bit on his snaps as a cautionary thing?
A: No. When you’re on the field playing, all of the players are at risk for injury. That’s just the reality of this sport. It’s a physical sport. The reason we all played it and do play it and coach it is we like the physical nature of it. Unfortunately, sometimes injuries are part of it. If he’s up and going, he’s going to go.
Tight Ends Coach Lunda Wells
Q: It looks like Scott (Simonson) could go from basically being on the street a couple weeks ago to starting this week. How big of a challenge is that for him, and how much does it help that he was here before?
A: Obviously, it helps a lot with him having familiarity in terms of what we’re doing here. He came back in really good shape, physical shape. Mentally, he’s done a nice job getting caught up to speed in terms of what we’re doing now. It really helps having a guy that has been here kind of knowing what we do and how we do things. It was good to have him come back.
Q: How did he come back? Is he in shape? Is he rusty?
A: No, he did a nice job. Like I said, he did a nice job while he was out in terms of taking care of his body. Obviously, rehabbing from the injury, he did a nice job, hadn’t seen any setbacks from that, which is a plus. He looked a little bit lighter, which is good. He did a nice job with his body.
Q: What does he bring in terms of his skillset?
A: Again, he’s a guy that’s gritty, tough, physical. He understands how we want to do things. He does a nice job executing the techniques we want done in the run game. Obviously, he’s capable of doing some of the things that we’re asking him to do in the pass game. He helps us in that aspect.
Q: Good blocking from the tight end is important against this Bears defense. He fits right in there, I would imagine?
A: Right. Yeah, he does. Again, against this team, against Chicago, they’re a really good front. They do a nice job playing the run. They do a nice job rushing the passer, obviously. Having Scott here can help us in terms of running the ball. When he’s in there, it’s going to help us because you want to be able to run the ball and stay ahead of the chains against this team. That’s where he does help us with that.
Q: I know you have no choice if they are your only two options but to trust them, but where are you with (Garrett) Dickerson and (Kaden) Smith if they’re the backup tight ends?
A: Yeah, those guys have done a nice job in terms of what we’re asking them to do. Both of them bring, obviously, some qualities to the game in terms of what they do best. Those guys are ready to go if need be. Again, we have a room that all of them are doing a nice job of being ready to go when they’re called upon.
Q: How big of a challenge is it for a guy like Kaden Smith, who wasn’t here with you guys throughout the entire spring and through training camp, and then comes here and is trying to work his way in. Can you speak to the challenges of what it’s like for a rookie to try to learn on the fly and really have an impact for you guys?
A: Yeah, it is challenging. But he’s a Stanford guy. He’s a Stanford guy, he’s from Texas, so he’s a guy that’s smart. He’s done a nice job picking up the things we’ve asked him to do. He’s been here for a while now. It’s been good to have him come in, and he didn’t have to come in on a week that he had to go in and play. He’s been in the building for a while now, and so now getting closer to playing again, he’s done a nice job being ready to go if he’s called upon.
Q: I know so much of what you do week to week is game planning, next opponent and whatnot. But do you sit down with Evan (Engram) at all just to check in on him, because he’s so good when he plays, but it just seems like the last couple of years, he’s had these injury setbacks, just to make sure that he’s not getting frustrated with staying healthy?
A: The biggest thing when guys get injured is keeping them involved. We do a nice job here as a team, keeping our injured guys involved in terms of keeping them in meetings. In our room, we keep them involved in terms of questions. It’s not just the guys who are up playing. Everybody gets asked questions, whether or not you’re on the practice squad, whether or not you’re on IR. If you’re in the meeting room, you’re going to get asked questions. That’s good in terms of keeping them involved, in terms of what we have going forward. Again, looking forward to getting him on the field whenever he gets ready to go.
Outside Linebackers Coach Mike Dawson
*Q: I was talking to Oshane Ximines the other day. He was saying the most frustrating thing for him to figure out is that he makes a mistake in Week 2, you guys fix it and then he is still waiting for that play to come back so that he can show he learned it. Do you find with rookies that it’s the patience involved, not just learning it but getting the chance to show you they learned it? *A: I think that’s an interesting point. I think it happens not only throughout the course of the season and the games but it can happen throughout the course of the week. You had this one chance on a Wednesday to hit a play and if you make a mistake, you get another chance to show you can correct it. You have to do a good job of physically correcting your mistake but also mentally. Not only from your own but maybe watching other guys. Seeing somebody else either do it correctly or incorrectly and then being able to learn a system or a play that way.
Q: Does he get anything out of playing that Khalil Mack role this week in practice? Does he get anything out of that that he can translate to his game?
A: I think anytime you get a chance to go out there and compete, you can hone your skills and work on it. Whether you’re a specific guy or you’re out there working on something simple as keying the ball and hitting your get off the right way or getting better at your get off or something like that. I think any time you get chance to go out and compete against guys, you get a chance to make yourself better.
Q: You don’t see Khalil Mack’s skills there quite yet?
A: Obviously, Khalil’s a great player, and Oshane has been working his butt off and hopefully we keep getting him in the right direction.
Q: There were question marks all over the defense coming in but you have a lot of guys getting a chance to show what they can do. Do you feel the development coming now that this group has this many games under its belt?
A: As the weeks go by and keep adding up, you become less of a first-year player or a second-year player. You don’t live in the moment of what happened behind you or ahead of you but what you’re doing right now. That’s constantly evolving. I think my high school coach said you are either getting better or you’re getting worse. Hopefully the guys are continuing to get better, you don’t ever really stay the same. As you stack those experiences together, you stack playing specific plays or formations along with having the sensation of being out there. I think that’s going to help them out throughout the course of the year and moving forward for sure.
Q: Bettcher said what really defines guys in this league is splash plays, why haven’t they come for Lorenzo Carter? He even said he was a 10-sack guy this year and it hasn’t come.
A: I think that everyone wants to be that competitor. They want to put themselves in that position and I know Lorenzo does. I know that he is a competitive guy, just being with him day in and day out. He wants to make those splash plays and I think you can look at a whole bunch of different factors. He’s been a guy that we have been able to move around. You see him on the ball, off the ball, he’s in coverage, he’s rushing, he’s doing different things that way. That’s a unique skill set that he has. I know there’s plays that he wants to be a step closer, accelerate a little more or do things like that. I think he is definitely holding himself to that high standard still and continues to work that. We have six more weeks to put the pedal to the metal with him. Hopefully those numbers start to come.