Head Coach Pat Shurmur
Opening Remarks: A couple guys won't be out there today. Alec Ogletree came in today not feeling well, so he won't be out there. Michael Thomas, I excused him for personal reasons, just dealing with illness in the family, so you won't see him there. Otherwise, the injured players that you know about – Odell, Spencer Pulley and Russell Shepard probably won't be doing much, if anything. Probably nothing. And I say that because there's times when I have this meeting after a walk-thru and there's times when they feel a little better as the day goes on so we see what they can do, so that's where we're at. Then Kerry Wynn's got a little thumb deal that he'll be limited. I'll take your questions.
Q: How's Odell feeling in general? Is it something he's progressing with at this point or is he kind of in the same spot?
A: He feels better than he did last week.
Q: Does that mean he's going to do some running?
A: No, he said he feels better. I just mentioned that he won't be out there today.
Q: He can do stuff on the side though?
A: Possibly, we'll just have to see, see what the rehab entails. It changes as the player's injury progressively gets better, so we'll see.
*Q: Ogletree has an illness, you said? *
A: Yeah, he's not feeling well, so we're just getting that checked out and then just see why, that's all.
Q: Are you still not considering shutting Odell down at all for the rest of the season?
A: No. At this point, I think it's a player's responsibility to do everything they can to get on the field and get back into games. We're coaches and players, and we play the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, so it's important that we do everything we can to show up.
*Q: As important as that is, is there a value in a player that is that important to you and your future here and the team's future here to protect him and make sure he doesn't make it worse? *
A: I think it's important that all the healthy players are ready to play in the game. I guess that question leads into that these two games aren't important, and I don't believe that. I think what's important is that we as a team do everything we can to go out there and play the game and try to win the game. Running parallel with all the thoughts moving forward in the offseason is this team trying to learn how to win again. And again, I'm speaking as the coach, where we're doing everything in our power to put a plan together to win the game. That requires that all the players do everything in their power if they're injured to make it back for the game, and then if for some reason they can't, then you do it for the next week. So that's the philosophy.
*Q: Did you go into the season with kind of an idea with some of the new players, especially like Saquon, did you kind of have an idea that ideally you'd like to have this kind of a workload for him and project it to the season? Like a pitch count for a pitcher, that sort of thing? *
A: No. I think if you play balanced offense and you're moving the ball and scoring points and doing the things we did in a handful of games this year the way that I want it to happen, then you spread the wealth and eight or nine guys touch the ball in the passing game, two or three guys touch the ball in the run game, and then you just see where that takes you. I think that's an important piece, but going into the year, did I have a plan for it? No. I think you play the games and try to do what you have to do to win. I think it's fair to say any coach in his first year, there's a lot of learning about your team that runs parallel with trying to win the game. So that's kind of what you go through.
Q: For a young guy like that who has a big workload, do you have to monitor with the trainers each game and say, 'ok, he had 26 touches, he had this, let's see what's going on here'?
A: No, we keep track of everything the player's all about physically and where he's at, how he feels. That's why I don't feel like you have 'victory Mondays'. I think that's part of the process to make sure you know where the guys are after a game moving forward. That conversation is constant in terms of where guys are in terms of health.
*Q: The youngest guy on the roster (Saquon), how do you see him physically holding up? *
A: I think he's holding up very well. He's a very physical guy, he's in very good shape, he's obviously super talented, and we're just keeping track and monitoring, and encouraging him to do all the things necessary each week to get ready to go. And he's done a good job with that.
Q: Anything you'll be looking for or evaluating in these last two games?
A: Yeah, I want to see good football and I want to win the game, and I think that's what we're trying to get done. Then anybody that's on the field is always being evaluated. Again, we've got a bunch of different players that have been forced into action that we're getting a chance to evaluate on a constant basis. I've said it before, you can't fake football, and I think it's important that we go out and everybody plays good football and is helping us win games.
Q: The Colts looked dead in the water about halfway through the season, and they seemingly turned it around. What are they doing differently?
A: They're a little bit like we are, a game or two better right now. They won a couple close games that we didn't. They started out slow in terms of wins and losses, they've been consistent, I think they found a little groove with Andrew Luck (who) is back healthy. We all understand he's a terrific quarterback and he's had a lot to do with their success on offense certainly. They're just like any new team, trying to put it together and move forward.
Q: How about their offensive line? For years they were disparaged as the weakness of the Colts. What do you see from their offensive line now? They obviously have a lot of resources.
A: Yeah, I think they're blocking better. They added (Quenton) Nelson, a rookie, and low and behold they're blocking better and playing better offense – an interesting concept.
Q: About their defense, this is a team that hasn't played well in the last three or four years defensively. Now they've come on, coming off a shutout. When you look at the film, what do you see is the big difference with them?
A: Well, in terms of the difference, their style of defense is the same as it was throughout the year, but they play good team defense. I know Matt Eberflus very well, he came from Dallas, and so the blueprint of how they play defense is like Dallas. They're not as big as some of the guys we played of late, but they're very active, move around, and they've done a good job of keeping teams out of the end zone.
Q: Does Frank Reich do a lot of movement with the tight ends, similar to what they did in Philadelphia from where he came from?
A: Yeah, I think Frank was a big piece to the Eagles success a year ago. Frank is a terrific coach, I know him very well. Through the offseason, we compared notes as new coaches, just how we're doing things – nothing tactically, but just in terms of how you want things to run. So I think he's done a good job with it. You see plays certainly that were similar to the plays run by the Eagles because he had an impact on that offensive scheme a year ago.
Q: You mentioned Nelson. I know you guys met with him quite a bit during the draft process, what kind of impact has he had and what did you like about him as a player?
A: Yeah, we thought he was a terrific player. We had him rated very highly. Tough, physical guy, and that's what you want to get – sort of like our guy Will (Hernandez), tough, physical – and that's really demanded of your offensive line.
Q: You've talked about the growth within a team and players. From a play-caller perspective, how long is that progression from Week 1 'til now to feel that comfort level of what you have, what your guys can do, that kind of thing?
A: I think you're constantly looking to do the things necessary to win the game against the opponents you face and play-calling, I think it's important you give your guys a chance. You call a pass, you want your guys running wide open and you want it to be blocked well and you want the quarterback to complete it. That's what you're looking for in play-calling is to give your guys a chance. When you call run plays, you don't want extra guys hanging around the runner, so that requires running the right path, blocking the right guys and getting the ball at the right time. I think we as play-callers constantly critique ourselves, there's always people telling us our tendencies. Sometimes tendencies are good, though, that means you're starting to become good at something. I think there's something to that. But that's a constant process, and we go through that as play-callers all the time.
Q: Can you look beyond the execution and just look at the plays and just say, 'alright, well that worked even though it didn't work execution-wise', and go back to that play?
A: Oh yeah, that's what we do during a game. Frequently, we'll have a play that we thought was really good and all the sudden, it gets nubbed. That's all that conversation, and that's the red face that you see from me – 'what the heck happened?' And it's like, hey listen, we just missed on this, don't get away from this. So that's what happens, and frequently you get back to a play that you ran earlier that may have not had success, and then you call it again later and you have success. Human nature says sometimes, I'll go onto something else, but that's just kind of the decision making you make during the game.
Q: As a coach, do you get certain satisfaction with a player like Aldrick (Rosas) making the Pro Bowl? You probably could have gotten rid of him and nobody would have blinked last year.
A: Yeah, I'm happy for the guys that are recognized and certainly in his case, he's recognized for having a terrific year. He's made some amazing kicks and he's done a great job with his kickoffs. He had one that went out of bounds, he gets one in a career I told him, so that was his only one. But, no, I've been pleased with what he's done this year. You hate to say you have favorite players, but he's one of my favorites. You've heard me talk about how he's not just a kicker, he's a football player. He's a big guy, he's got a presence, and he's competitive. So I appreciate all the good in Aldrick and the fact that he was recognized is great.
RB Saquon Barkley
Q: To get voted in to the Pro Bowl as a rookie, obviously that shows the respect that you have of your peers. Just your thoughts on getting voted in.
A: It's an amazing feeling, especially your first year to be selected into the Pro Bowl. Got to say thank you to all the fans, players, and coaches and just something that you dream about as a little kid. I actually trained in Orlando for the combine, so I got to see those guys there last year and I remember saying in the back of your head that you want to be here one day and to be able to accomplish that as a rookie definitely means a lot, but you couldn't do that by yourself. You got to give credit to your teammates and the coaches in this building also.
Q: How do you feel at this point 14 games into your rookie year? You've taken a lot of hits, a lot of yards –
A: Physically, I feel pretty good. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you and say I feel 100 percent. No one feels 100 percent at this point. That's just the nature of the game, especially the position I play, but any position in football at this stage of the season. They're going to feel a little banged up, but that's where you got to grind it out. You got to grind it out and continue to stick with your routine and try to come into Sunday as best as you can be and help the team win.
Q: Would you hope that your workload in the last two games, obviously it's no playoff scenario or things like that, but you hope it stays the same or gets pushed back a little bit?
A: I hope my workload is, whatever it does, whatever it is, helps the team win. Obviously I would never want my workload to decrease. I know people probably think that because we're technically eliminated from the playoffs that what are we playing for, but I don't see it that way at all. We got two games left in our season that we get two games left for the rest of this year with the guys on your team, with the guys that you worked your tail off with all year to get to this point. You got to go out there and continue to fight obviously for yourself and just the competitive nature you have, but your teammates. I would hope my workload to be whatever it can be to help the team win and if that's, like I've said multiple times, if that's 10 carries or 40 touches. I bumped it up to 40 this time.
Q: What do you think to this point after these 14 games has been the best aspect of your game personally?
A: I think that to be able to obviously the way that the year's been going and obviously no one is happy with our record, but just personally with myself, I guess you can say not happy or not satisfied, but I love the way that I've been able to grow as a player. I feel like a lot of people will always try to talk about the rookie wall or at this point in the year or you're going to get banged up here, banged up there. Obviously I've been able to be very healthy and that's credit to the people I work with and God, but to be able to grow as a player, understanding the game more and also growing as a leader and obviously that's probably my favorite part of this year is to be able to learn and be able to grow from the good things I've done this year and the mistakes that I've made.
Q: What do you think you improved the most?
A: I would say leadership, definitely leadership. Obviously I was never shy to talk or be vocal, but just you know yourself when you're speaking just how more comfortable you feel and I felt more comfortable speaking and leading from this point before in the beginning of the year or preseason or camp. That's what I would say I'm not happy with, but I'm proud of the most, but also just understanding the game as a whole, seeing the game differently, how the game's slowing down a lot more in the run game and for me in the pass game and hopefully I could continue to get better these last two weeks.
Q: Do you get a sense that you talk about a little more comfortable as a leader – do you get a sense that more people are more comfortable with you as a leader and will maybe listen to you more now than they would've earlier in the year when you were an unproven rookie?
A: Yeah, but that's just the nature of life. You have to prove yourself. Obviously I wanted to take on that role, but I had to prove it to my team that I'm a guy you can follow and I'm a guy that's willing to lead and the way I did that, that's what I thought I would say who I am – stay true to who I am, don't come in here with a cocky attitude or you're the second pick, you're this, you're that. That means nothing. Once you get to the organization, you're just like everybody else and you got to work and prove yourself just like everyone else and that was a mindset that I had and that's the mindset I'm going to continue to have and hopefully, like I said, it's not the end of the year we still got two games left to get better and hopefully these next two weeks I can grow in there and even prove to my teammates more that I'm willing to be here for them whether it's on the field or off the field. Just know that they got a competitor that's going to go out there and compete at a high level for them.
Q: I know you were asked about that rookie wall a couple weeks ago – you're playing more games than in college. Can you see where people would think that and did you at all feel it?
A: Personally, I think that's something that goes on internally with yourself, kind of a mental point and I think that just the way that – not the way I was raised, but a lot of credit to the coaches here and the coaches I had in college of developing me mentally. I feel like that I never got to that wall. Maybe I did, maybe I don't know what the rookie wall actually is and I'm just lying to you guys, but personally I felt like that I never got there. I can see why, the wear and tear on your body, you're just not used to playing 17 weeks compared to playing 12 weeks or 13 weeks in college. I can see the difference there, but that's just, in my mind, you're just complaining. Obviously everyone's going to be – unless you have a real reason why like just some people going through some injuries and stuff like that. I could see in that case, but if your body is obviously banged up as a young guy, you just got to power through it and that's why I think with the rookie wall people try to say comes to play, but I just think that's a mental part.
Q: There's a Rookie of the Year candidate in this game in the Colts linebacker Darius Leonard. What does he look like to you, how exciting will it be of a challenge against him running the ball?
A: I'm definitely looking forward to playing against him. He's a heck of a player. I think he leads the league in tackles, not 100 percent sure of that. Does a really good job of getting the ball out so you know you got to be conscious of that when you're running by him, does a great job getting tackles, got a great feel for the ball, just a great feel for being on the field and he's a heck of a player and as a competitor I look forward to going against him.
Q: You won't go against Quenton Nelson, but did you get to meet him on the rookie circuit and what do you think of the way he plays offensive line?
A: I never got to really like sit down and watch film with him because I'm just watching more film on defense, to be honest, but I see some stuff on like Instagram and social media of him and he's a heck of a player. Kind of going through the draft process, kind of got to talk to him a little bit and I knew he was going to be a heck of a player, so with any rookie or anybody in my draft class, I just wish him success and health and he's been playing really well this year.
Q: You saw that video of him laying out and screaming –
A: Yeah, that's what I'm talking about, something like that. He's obviously been a tremendous help to that team and they're playing at a high level right now and we got to obviously have him on the game plan and mindset to attack him, attack them on offense, and we got to do a great job on our side of the ball of getting (inaudible).
QB Eli Manning
Q: What do you see from the Colts defense?
A: They do a good job. They run around, they make plays. A lot of teams have trouble moving the ball consistently on them. They run the ball well. They do a good of job of getting to the quarterback and disrupting things. Very fundamentally sound, and play good defense.
Q: They have a Rookie of the Year Candidate in (LB) Darius Leonard. How often is it that you see a rookie linebacker be that much of an impact? Why do you suppose he's been able to be this effective?
A: I think they do a good job of just kind of the defensive line funneling things to him and he does a good job of making tackles. He runs well, he covers a lot of area around the field and he seems to be making a lot of plays.
Q: What's the biggest thing you look for in these last two games?
A: You're chasing wins. Obviously, you want to finish the season strong. We've been playing good football and just have to get back to it. Opportunity to go against a good team and to kind of see where we stand. You just want to go out there and play well. We're football players and this is what we do. We play football, that's our passion, that's our job, and we're going to go out there and do it well and be able to celebrate some wins.
Q: I know this team is never about individual awards, but (RB) Saquon Barkley comes in as a rookie and makes the Pro Bowl. That has to be pretty cool.
A: It's great, I'm happy for Saquon. He deserves it. He's had a great year. He's worked really hard. He's done everything we've asked him to do. So excited for him he gets to experience that. It'll be a fun deal for him.
Q: What are your thoughts regarding players around the league who sit out of games to rest for the playoffs?
A: It's a tough situation, but if you can play, you go play. That's their job, that's what we're supposed to do, that's what we're here for. No matter the circumstances or what's going on, you go do your job. Like I said earlier, we're football players. You go practice and you go play in the games. You try to enjoy that, because everybody knows you don't know when your last one, or when your next one, where it will be next year. So, you enjoy this team, this group of guys, and you try to go win a game together and enjoy that.
Q: Is this a special trip for you going back to Indianapolis?
A: Not thinking about it too much. We weren't playing the Colts that day. I just kind of look at it as, hey, we got a game and going to play well. Once you walk in there, you may reminisce. It's been a while since I've been there.
Q: Coach [Shurmur] talked about learning how to win. Record aside, do you feel like this team is on the right track of learning how to win?
A: I think so, I think we went through a stretch when we were winning games and each one was a little bit different. Some we were behind and we were able to come back and hold on to it. Some we had a lead, and kind of lost it for a little bit, responded back and won. It's just about learning how to win a lot of different ways. Then also, it's about through the course of the season, you can be playing good football, you could be winning a couple of games, you might lose one, how do you respond? How do you bounce back? So, we have to be able to bounce back, figure out how to play that complete season and win games late in the year.
Q: I think they're only one of two teams you've never beaten in your career. Would you like to get that?
A: Yeah, you'd like to get a win. Haven't got a win verse them. Trying to work towards that.
Q: Is it still weird see that uniform and not see your brother in it?
A: I think I've gotten over it by now. It's been long enough. Watched a lot of Colts games over the years.
Q: Is this going to be a team similar to the Philadelphia Eagles since their head coach Frank Reich was their offensive coordinator last season? Will this team be easier to prepare for because of that?
A: Maybe from the offenses standpoint, but defensively, it's a team that their defensive coordinator came from Dallas. So, it's a lot of similarities with what Dallas does. From that aspect, there's some things that we've seen in the past and seen before. Each one, they have a few new wrinkles, different things you have to prepare for. There's some similarities I think more from a Dallas standpoint than a Philly standpoint.