Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale
Martindale: Happy Holidays. The new year's coming up, and what exciting times we have going right now. Everybody's talked about how we want playoff football around here. Here's what we need: We need playoff fans to show up for this game and be as loud as they can be. I know it's New Year's Day, so if you have one going on on New Year's Eve, keep it going. And take it all the way through the game. If not, get plenty of rest and be ready to be loud on Sunday. I can't wait for it; it's going to be exciting times here for our great fans and for our guys on defense.
Q: Did you foresee this – the opportunity for this team to take it deep into the season with obviously a great chance to make the playoffs? When you joined this program, did you foresee that?
A: I think that it just builds over time, I really do because it's one of those things that we followed Dabs (head coach Brian Daboll), and we've advanced his plan. I've talked already about organizational alignment and all those things. We just took it one day at a time and tried to be consistent, and here we are. And that's the same thing we're doing today. And that's the same thing we'll do tomorrow and throughout this thing because we found that's the best thing for us and the recipe to go with.
Q: You mentioned the organizational alignment, and you look at your defense and guys who are playing snaps – significant snaps – now were not with you in July, let alone going all the way back to the spring. What is it about what you guys are teaching, coaching, in your system and maybe the guys you brought in that have allowed them to take on roles late in the year when they really don't have that foundation from the start?
A: I think that's it's a credit to the players. First of all, the ones that we brought in. But I think it has to do with our system. I talked about having a position-less defense. It's really easy to teach, and it's flexible enough that if we're playing somebody and this is what he does best, we can put him in that spot. I think it's worked really well for us. It's not easy to plan out, but it's a lot easier to execute when you find out who you have up and all those things. And it's taught everybody in the room to have some resiliency and keep plugging away because their opportunity is right around the corner, and they're going to play. That's not just hot air that we're blowing at them, it's the truth. It's been a combination of a lot of things that make it all work but the system's flexibility, our coaches are great teachers and we get people caught up pretty fast.
Q: What went wrong on that third-and-17?
A: The third-and-17 – is that the one that put them in the field goal (range) after that?
A: They made a great play first of all. Credit to them. That kid's a heck of a receiver (Minnesota Vikings Justin Jefferson). But it's one of those things that if you have an NY on your helmet or the throwback Giants on your helmet, we're going to attack. We're going to try to win the game. At that time, we were tackling them, keeping them inbounds, keeping the clock running, doing all the things you do. We had the line for the kicker (Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph), and obviously he stretched that out a lot further than what he's ever done before. So, like I told the players, we executed the way we needed to execute, but it's like getting a half-court shot hit at the buzzer. You just tip your hat to the kicker, the field goal unit and to that team. Nothing went wrong except we just didn't get there and make the tackle fast enough. That's basically what it was, and the guy is a phenomenal player. I'd do it all over again just trying to win the game because that's who we are; that's just our mentality. I think the fans of New York appreciate that mentality. Once again, we're going to see it Sunday when they get loud on third down.
Q: Is that the perfect call offensively for what you're trying to do right there?
A: It worked against us. We're in a zone defense, so they hit a crease. And that's, like I said, you just tip the hat. We're going to win a lot more than we're going to lose in those situations, and we were trying to win the game. That's why I made the calls that I made.
Q: You guys keep re-shuffling, adding inside linebackers, Jarrad Davis now, Landon (Collins) obviously last week added to the active roster. How do you see that position, and specifically how is Jaylon Smith playing?
A: Jaylon's playing well. He's a first, second-down linebacker for us. He's playing well. Today we're going to give him a vet day. I think the wear and tear of the season is catching up with him a little bit, but you see it, we're going to play who thinks best, get them in there and go.
Q: You've worked for decades to become a head coach. I'm just curious: What was your reaction when you saw (Indianapolis Colts interim head coach) Jeff Saturday pulled out of the TV studio to get that opportunity this year?
A: You have to worry about the job that you have. And they've done a nice job of building a program there. And the owner can do whatever the owner wants to do. So, if you sat there and got mad, you'd be rolling that rollercoaster of everything else of what happens in this league. There's nothing that'll surprise you the longer that you're in it. And Jeff's done a good job.
Q: Is it a little disrespectful, though, to guys like yourself and others around the league who have paid their dues?
A: I don't look at it that way. I just try to be the best at my job that I can be. And if it happens, it happens because I think it changes your personality if you start thinking that way. You sound like that little kid (saying), 'Why did he get the new baseball glove, and I didn't?' So, I just look at it as, 'Let's go play some defense and get ready to get in the playoffs.'
Q: What do you feel like you can do to get to that opportunity?
A: I can't answer that question. I just think if you get the opportunity and it works out, falling back on it, you'll be where you're supposed to be. And I think if you look at it that way, you'll live a lot happier life instead of saying, 'Woe is me' and 'that's not fair' and 'he's so lucky' – and all the things that you always hear when you go back to your hometowns and visit, 'You're so lucky.' (You think,) 'No, actually. We worked.' So, that's just the way I look at it.
Q: What do you think of the job (coach) Drew Wilkins has done with the outside linebackers this year? Obviously, you guys go way back. You brought him here for a reason.
A: He's a phenomenal coach. When I got interviewed here for the defensive coordinator job, and you can ask Dabs to confirm this, I said, 'If it doesn't work out with me, you need to hire this guy. He is a special talent in this league.' I think he has done a great job with that outside backer room. And I think that our personnel has done a great job with the players that are in that room. And I think that it's going to do nothing but get better.
Q: How do you game plan for (Indianapolis Colts quarterback) Nick Foles this week knowing that, other than Monday night, you got to go deep into the archives to really dig into his stuff? How do you approach that, present that to your guys?
A: I think it's just respecting the game and respecting what he's done. They just don't give out Super Bowl MVP trophies. And he has one of those, and he's got a Pro Bowl and things like that. You can tell he has a live arm, and they're trying to push the ball down the field with him. (I've) been in it long enough that I've gone against him when he was at Philly and those other places. It's going go be a challenge because he's got plenty of weapons to work with. He's got two NBA players playing tight end (Jelani Woods and Mo Alie-Cox), and he's got a bunch of receivers with huge catch radius – anything that's close to them, they catch. So, it's going to be a great challenge for us.
Q: How much of a difference will it make if you get (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) back this week? Does he change the defense?
A: I don't know if he necessarily changes the defense, but just the player himself and the person himself, I would love if that happens. But I don't know. You have to talk to Dabs about that if we're close on that or not.
Q: What goes through your mind and your players' minds when you look and see that Colts gave up seven sacks last week?
A: What goes through my mind and the players' minds? I can't tell you what's going through the players' minds (Laughs). What's going through my mind is that at that time, that's the first game he's played in a while. So, it's going to do nothing but get better for him, seeing things, going at a faster pace of it. But there's definitely blood in the water.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka
Q: The success you guys had throwing the ball on Saturday, does that encourage you that you can do more of that going forward or is that strictly – that was just the game plan?
A: I think every week's different. I think every week you just got to go through and evaluate what you think the defense is going to present you and put together the best plan you can do in both the pass and the run game.
Q: The analytics say that you have the second most efficient red zone offense. What is your redzone approach generally that you've been able to be so efficient in the red zone?
A: I think first and foremost the players have done a good job executing down there. Executing their assignments with great attention to detail and fundamentals and techniques. As far as putting the plan together, we look at it each week and find out how we can put our best players in those spots. Whether it's the run game – find an indicator and find an advantage there as best we can.
Q: A lot of teams say that it gets harder there because the field gets smaller. Do you emphasize creativity there? Is it more about balance? Just generally speaking.
A: Generally speaking, you want to try and find a tendency on what they do in a coverage standpoint and then trying to find a way to create an advantage there in the run game and the pass game, whether it's shifting, motioning, influencing the defense to maybe expand a little bit more. It's just like you said, it's condensed. They're not defending the depth of the field, now you got to use the width of it. You try to maybe expand it to run inside or to condense it to run outside. We'll run guys back and forth across the formation to create some space. There's a lot of things that we look at but those are some.
Q: After the game and even yesterday, I think, (running back) Saquon (Barkley) was highly complimentary of (center Jon) Feliciano on that touchdown run. Other than the fact that you obviously scored and everyone celebrates, what was the best part overall of that entire play?
A: Yeah, I think the guys they worked on (it) – they executed the play well. It started with the o-line and getting to their blocks and creating some nice double teams. The way that we had that play, (quarterback) Daniel (Jones), it was kind of like an RPO, zone-read style play. Daniel made the right read and trusted his rules and the guys made a great play. Saquon, obviously, read through his reads and his landmarks and got through the line of scrimmage and made a play on kind of a broken tackle there and made a great play down the field. That was big for us.
Q: How about the Feliciano part? Again, Saquon went out of his way to say Jon recognized an unseen look I believe.
A: It was a look we had talked about. It was just one of those looks that's down the line, not as a primary look. They did a great job really in the huddle identifying the personnel and so they were able to get the communication done beforehand on how they were going to block up that look.
Q: That's a big play in the game. I'm curious what's the thought process for you of calling a play that could have been a run or pass according to what you said but that could be in a run in that spot there?
A: Yeah, that's the design that we have. It's flexible. It could be a run, could be a pass. You kind of take the best look that you get from whatever the defense wants to present. You kind of get the best of both worlds and maybe you get an opportunity to hand it to Saquon, you get an opportunity to get it out on the perimeter with Daniel, throw it to one of the receivers. We kind of got three options there, that's why we like the play.
Q: You don't worry about potentially running the ball on fourth down there in that spot? Your mindset as a play caller.
A: It's part of the play. It gives you those options, so you bank on the guys going in there and executing like they did.
Q: With Saquon, why is it that he seems to be so effective in that third and fourth quarter? When the defense gets tired, he doesn't and it's really when he seems to break more.
A: I think he's doing a great job of staying patient with it, trusting his reads. I think sometimes the run game, in general – generally speaking – the run game's not just a bunch of eight-and nine-yard gains, right? There's a couple two's and three's in there and you get working and you get a feel for how the flow of the game works out and the o-line sticking with it and they're running off the football, stressing all the things that we talk about in practice. I think as the game goes on, it kind of declares a little bit – you kind of get a good feel in that second half of the adjustments you want to make and the guys have done a great job really communicating through those.
Q: How have you seen Daniel grow more comfortable in the read versus maybe running and throwing the ball as the season has gone on?
A: I think he's done a really good job with that. I think he's trusting himself with those reads. He's doing a good job stepping up in the pocket when there's lanes. Stepping up and running, I think you saw that last week. Those are things that I think make, from the quarterback position, make it difficult for defenses to defend when you have a quarterback that's mobile that can step up and do those things. He's done a great job of making those right decisions; when to get the ball out, when to step up. He's done a good job.
Q: What are the benefits of (guard) Ben (Bredeson) and (guard) Nick (Gates) rotating? What's the biggest benefit of that for you guys?
A: Yeah, I think it keeps both of those guys fresh. They do a great job, really, throughout the week of practice too of communicating. Make sure they see the looks and talking about the looks. The rotation, I think, has benefited both of those guys.
Q: What's the difficulty of it? How do you decide that this is working?
A: Yeah, I think we talk about it – and again, every week is different, it doesn't say we may or may not do this week and it's something we talk about with (head coach Brian Daboll) Dabs and (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and how we want to roll those guys. It worked last week, and I think they did a nice job with it and kind of getting into the flow of the game. We'll continue to evaluate this week.
Q: What did you think of how your offensive line pass protected?
A: I thought they did a nice job. I think they stayed within themselves, protected the depth and width of the pocket, inside out. Those are things that we work on. Obviously, it's never going to be perfect, but these guys battle and that's what I'm really proud of from that group.
Q: If they have a game where they're struggling early, does that impact how you call the game or would you rather keep giving them another shot at like deeper drop backs.
A: Yeah, I think what you want to show is – first off, build a plan that has the flexibility to adjust for whatever the situation might be. I have a ton of confidence in those guys. I know they're going to fight. I know they're going to work. I trust not only the o-line but the quarterback position, the running backs getting in to block and their responsibilities. The receivers separating, getting open. Tight ends separating, getting open and doing their assignments in the pass game. It's all encompassing. We're all in it together and I think as the game goes on, you adjust as the game goes.
Q: When you're rotating those guards, like you guys are, how have you been able to find the chemistry with the group? I think the cliché around the league is you need to find five and stick with the five so they can learn to play together. You guys seemed to have found some of that camaraderie despite the fact that you're rotating.
A: It's been good to have those guys around all through OTAs and all through training camp. They're all speaking the same language. They've done a great job. Next man up, stepping up and then communicating across the line like we talked about. Feliciano, he's the main guy. He's got to get everyone going the right direction, set the point, confirming that with the quarterback. Those guys work together a lot, they talk a lot, they spend a lot of time in the meeting room, after each practice set, talking about the looks they say and how they saw and how they can make it better or cleaner and then tying that in with how Bobby and (assistant offensive line coach) Tony (Sparano Jr.) and (quarterbacks coach) Shea (Tierney) and how those guys communicate. That's a huge part of it. Hats off to them for getting it done and we got to continue to do that this week.
Q: (Defensive Coordinator) Wink (Martindale) has made no secret of the fact that he wants to be a head coach. When the Colts job opened, your name was thrown around right away. We haven't asked you about this, is that an ambition of yours? To become a head coach.
A: Absolutely. You aspire to want to be a head coach. But really, that's not really at the front of my mind at all. I'm focused on this week. All that stuff will take care of itself.
Q: I don't know how many times Kansas City has made the playoffs in a row but to join this group and to see whatever you're seeing that we don't from the group now that you're on the cusp with a win – what has that part of it been like with this new team for you?
A: I think it's just been a great journey to go through this season. The ups and the downs – you're always trying to improve on things you've done in the past. This week is really no different. Last week, didn't get an opportunity to get it done so we got to go back to the drawing board and figure out ways how we can tighten up things that we didn't do so well and continue to build on all the good that we did last week.
Q: Philosophically when you're putting together a game plan every week, I know there are great players across the NFL, but when you face a defense that has a corner with a pedigree like (Minnesota cornerback Patrick) Peterson last week and now you have (Indianapolis cornerback Stephon) Gilmore this week – from your perspective when you're putting that together there is a tendency to shy away from those guys, you kind of just focus on the rest of the field but do you look at it as a situation where we're going to do what we do and we need to attack the way we attack and if it's against that player, so be it, we'll take our shots?
A: Yeah, and they have a lot of really talented players on that defense. You have to, when you're developing the plan, you try and figure out how you can use your players strengths against their weaknesses and understand what they're really good at from a defensive standpoint and figure out ways of how you can manipulate that. You definitely think about the matchups, their personnel versus our personnel, our personnel versus theirs. You look at all those type of things and figure out the best schemes and best ways to get our guys in those spots.
Special Teams Coordinator Thomas McGaughey
Q: What happened on the blocked punt?
A: We just got to execute better. I'm not going to get into the details of it, but the main thing it comes down to is execution – just doing the little things the right way all the time. Just got to make sure we execute better.
Q: Do you think that was within his (Minnesota Vikings kicker Greg Joseph) range at the end? Obviously, it is. Beforehand, what were you thinking when you saw them lining up for that field goal?
A: I watched him. He missed two from 58 (yards) during pregame. And they weren't short, but he missed them. He did a good job. Good snap. Good hold. Good kick. And it was a heck of a kick.
Q: How much are you watching the opposing kicker during pregame?
A: Yeah, we watch them because every day is a new day. Sometimes, even with guys like (Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin) Tucker, and depending on the conditions, you just watch them to see how they're kicking. Sometimes, the conditions are bothering them; they're having a hard time maybe at one end of the field than the other. So, you always watch them just to see how they're kicking.
Q: How did you choose (safety) Julian (Love) to be the guy who was back there on the end line?
A: He's on our field goal block team, and we trust him. If you watch him, when he picks the ball off, he's pretty good in space. And he has really good ball skills. That's the reason why we put him back.
Q: What's (wide receiver/punt returner) Richie (James) doing that's better this time around? There was a point in the season where he was struggling a little bit, and you were looking at other options. But he's sort of found himself here a little bit.
A: He just kept his head down and kept working. It's a credit to him – just the emotional maturity just to be able to be a pro and just come in every day. Just keep trying to get better at doing your job. Things happen in this league. It happens. That's why you get paid the big bucks. You got to bounce back, stay focused, stay locked in. And hopefully you get another opportunity. And he did and he's taking advantage of it.
Q: How challenging has this year been? You guys have been involved in probably more big plays than you'd like to be. Just how challenging has it been to try to manage your way through that?
A: It's rough, but it is what it is. You've got to keep fighting. You've got to keep plugging. Keep trying to find a way to put our guys in position where they can make plays. It's a fight. It's this league. You've been in it long enough, you'll have some great years, you'll have some average years, you'll have some bad ones. That's the NFL.
Q: How much of what is going on is that they keep on taking players away from you and bringing in new guys that it's (a learning curve)?
A: We talk about it all the time here. We got to make the gumbo every week. Sometimes, it's chicken gumbo. Sometimes it's seafood gumbo. Sometimes it's just roux. (Laughs) It is what it is. But regardless of what it is, the fans want it to taste good. So, you just got to make do with what you have and coach them up and just try to get them better.
Q: If you get to the playoffs, do some starters become special teams players?
A: I'm not even worried about the playoffs. All I'm worried about is (Indianapolis Colts special teams coordinator) Bubba Ventrone and his unit and (Indianapolis Colts linebacker) Grant Stuard and (Indianapolis Colts cornerback/kickoff returner) Dallis Flowers. And that's all I'm worried about right now. Those guys, they are enough in itself. So, just lock in on them. And I'll worry about the other stuff down the road.
Q: On the blocked punt, if extra pressure is being applied at the long snapper (Casey Kreiter), is he supposed to have more help to handle that?
A: I'm not going to get into details on that. Just in general, period, protection is protection. And it starts inside out. But again, just the details of it, I'm not going to get into all that. Just got to execute better. It's simple. You saw the play; it's not rocket science. Just got to execute better.
Q: (Punter) Jamie (Gillan) mixed in like a rugby punt. How does that come about? Does he tell you he's going to do that? How does that work?
A: We called it (Laughs). He's a rugby player, so he has that in his arsenal. But he's done it a couple time this year, and he's executed well.
Q: What's the benefit to doing it?
A: I'm not going to let you in to all the secrets. It's some benefits, but it worked out for us.
Q: Are you going to be the first coach to say that (since) the Colts have lost five in a row – they've won one of their last nine – we should roll over these guys?
A: (Laughs) Nope.
Running Back Saquon Barkley
Q: I know the focus is on one game, playing this game. At any point on Sunday, do you imagine that you would let your mind wonder a little bit to what's at stake and what you guys can accomplish?
A: I think we are all aware of what's at stake and what we can accomplish. You can't get lost in that. You got to keep focus on the main thing and that's come out here. I know the record doesn't say it, but they've been playing really well. They have a really good defense over there. A lot of talented guys and we got to get back to playing tight football, take care of the ball, take care of the little things and if you look throughout the course of the season when we do that, we put ourselves in position to win football games. That's just the focus. Try what we can do to win this game. Everything else that's at stake, if you take care of what you got to take care of – the rest will handle itself.
Q: How important is it to take care of that business now and not leave it to chance for Week 18?
A: You don't want to leave it to chance. The way you do that is by doing what you got to do this week. That's really it. You just got to treat it like another week. One game at a time, it's the most important game because it's the next game on the schedule and try to do the little things, take care of the football, and go out there and try to win the football game.
Q: Is it different knowing – I know you guys take it one week at a time – knowing the situation is kind of flipped this week? You've been an underdog most of the season and now everyone is saying you're supposed to win this game, you should win this game, you're the favorites in this game. How different is that and does it add pressure at all?
A: No, it doesn't add pressure. I don't really look at it any different way. It's the National Football League. It's their job, it's their profession to show up and try and win football games. Same as us. We're not really caught up in underdogs or overdogs. I don't know what's opposite of that. (Favorites) Favorites, yeah. Underdogs or favorites, we're just caught up in coming tomorrow. I got to watch film, wrapping up today, coming tomorrow and getting ready for Sunday.
Q: For you personally, what would it mean if you did make the playoffs?
A: It would mean a lot. It's stuff you dream about as a kid, playing playoff football in the National Football League. That's something that you dream about when you get drafted to the New York Giants. Obviously, the first four years that didn't happen and now there's a chance, a possibility. It's a beautiful thing when you look at it. All the ups and downs, whether it's in my personal career or whether it's the organization- what we've been through the last couple of years. It will be special, and we have a chance to do it. At the end of the day, we just got to take care of what we can take care of and that's on Sunday.
Q: Where there ever times where you wondered if it would happen?
A: No. I think I've been vocal about saying that I want to be here when things turn around and I want to be helpful, and I want to be part of the reason why they turn around. I think that's the case. We got a new coaching staff, brought a new energy, brought some new players, kept a lot of players around and started off the season hot and put ourselves in a position to play meaningful football in December and January and a position to lock it in. That's what you want.
Q: Do you think you; it's taken a while to get here since you've been here, the foundation for good things for a while are in place now?
A: Yeah, I think we show that every week. We're obviously a younger team. I guess you could say. I think when we do the little things – when we come in, take care of the football, play the type of football that we know we can play we will put ourselves in a position to win games. This year, we've done that more times than not.
Q: You talked about, right after the bye week, that there were conversations – has that ever come up again since the bye week?
A: No. We had a conversation about it in the bye week. Obviously, nothing got done. We said we'll talk about it when the season is over.
Q: What point of the season did you feel this team might have a playoff run in it?
A: Camp. I think when you come into every year, you got to come with a positive mindset. You got to be ready for anything. I know a lot of people wouldn't have put us in this position at the start of the season. I don't think anybody outside of the people in this facility would have put us in this position. We knew the talent that we have, we knew that it was hard to win football games in the league, but if we did the little things right, we could put ourselves in a position to do it. We've done that. Now we got the opportunity, and we got to take care on Sunday.
Q: Is it cool at all to think – a lot of people wondered whether (running back) Saquon Barkley and (quarterback) Daniel Jones would be the future when this season started whether you guys would be the foundation upon which this is built. Now, you've proven special things can happen when we are the two guys who are the focal point of this offense. Is it cool to think that way at all?
A: No, we kind of knew what we were capable of doing. Sometimes things just don't work out. Random, weird stuff happens, injuries. This is our first season, me and Daniel, being healthy together. I would also want to say it's not just me and Daniel. A lot of the reason why we have success is a lot of things that come to play, the reason why we've been very successful this year. But going off your question, it's our first year that we've been healthy. It's not like – it's football. Some of the things that like – well, he's been injured or when I've been injured – some of the stuff we can't control. I know the type of person I am. I know the type of person he is. I know the type of group of guys that we have in this locker room, and I've been saying it year over year over year that we're doing the right things. We're doing the right things. We have the right mindset. The tides will change, they will turn at some point. We just kept believing sticking to the process and now we put yourself in a position. This year, also, like you said – put a foundation hopefully for the future. We got to learn from coming off a bye week, getting a big win, getting a win right away. Going down, having a little stretch and, I guess, having adversity throughout the season. Find a way we can build on that so that it can be even locked up by now in this situation.
Q: How have you seen Daniel grow the most this season? Granted the health aspect is a big aspect of that, Daniel's growth.
A: His leadership, the way he's commanded the huddle. How poised he is no matter the moment whether it's clutch situations, whether it's early in the game. He's showing that he can make all the throws, but I think the biggest thing about him is how tough he is. He's probably, not probably – he's the toughest quarterback in the NFL. I really do believe that. Just the way his mindset, the way he works, the way he carries himself on the field. He'll try to run somebody over. He doesn't care. He's a competitor. He'll do whatever it takes to win a football game. That's the thing that I love most about him.
Q: That third down run was a big one right there.
A: Put us in a position to call a run play on fourth and two. We don't have that touchdown run, obviously for the o-line blocking, but DJ used his feet and lowered his shoulder and got a couple of extra yards.
Q: We only want him to lower his shoulder so much, right?
A: I can say what I want but DJ, like I said, he's tough. He's going to go out there and do whatever he can to help the team win.
Q: Do you guys' chat running routes, or have you talked more this season?
A: What do you mean?
Q: Talking the run game since that's been an added aspect of his game this season. I'm curious if that's something that's come up between you two.
A: That's not really what we talk about. Obviously, we talk about the game plan. He's athletic. I think that' something that's really not talked about a lot. He doesn't get a lot of credit for it, his athletic ability. Obviously, he can make all the throws but the way he can extend plays and the way he can keep drives going with his feet. If you look throughout the season, there's so many plays that he – for some reason the Tennessee Titans game came up. I was watching it the other day with my family. There was a big down, it was like fourth and two or fourth and one. We ran a keep in a critical situation. Everyone thinks the running back is getting the ball. He kept it, outran someone, and lowered his shoulder and got the first down. So many moments throughout the season that he's showed his athletic ability. I think he showed that obviously early in his career too. We can continue to keep building on it also.
Q: You've obviously had a terrific season; he's had a terrific season. Do you ever wonder why – I think the streak is now 43 games where you haven't scored 30 or more points – that hasn't happened? Obviously, it's not about scoring 30 points, it's about winning a game. It doesn't seem to make sense that when you're having such a good season and he's having such a good season, that it's such a struggle to get to that number.
A: That's not our game, you know what I mean? Obviously, would we love to score 30 or 40 points? Yeah, but that's not it. That's not – we've won multiple games obviously without doing that. If we really wanted to get 30 points, we could have done it against the Ravens when I slid at the two-yard line. It is what it is. Obviously, I've seen that before. A lot of people get caught up in that. We would love to score more points but at the end of the day, it's all about complimentary football. You've got to play off the defense, the defense has got to play off us and special teams all together. Whatever we got to do to win football games, whether its score 30 – maybe it's this week, maybe it's only seven. Whatever it takes to win.
Q: Have you noticed anything different about these games late in the season? When I talked about pressure before – just in these late season games in general. Have you noticed a different atmosphere?
A: Last week was like a playoff game. I've never been in one, but I would assume.
Q: Why? What about it?
A: Just how it came down. How loud it was. How it came down to a field goal. Just showed you, obviously it's like that every week but especially in a game like that. I guess. I don't really know; I've never been in it.
Q: Do you think your playoff-type juices were flowing?
A: It was faster. Guys were moving around. That's what it felt like. I guess you could say.
Q: What do you expect for this week?
A: Same thing. I know we're not, I'm definitely not – I know their record doesn't speak for them, but this is the same team that had Philly, who put a whooping on us, down to the wire. They had a chance to beat them. Even if you look at the Dallas game before they started turning the ball over, they were in that game. Every week, they're in every single game especially when (interim head coach Jeff) Coach Saturday got there. They're good, especially on defense. They're a really good defense. It's going to be a tough football game and we just got to find a way to win.
Cornerback Adoree' Jackson
Q: Do you think you'll play Sunday?
A: We're taking it day by day still. Just going out there, doing all the precautions, doing it right by the book and by the plan. Not trying to rush it. Every day, every week it's getting better.
Q: What is that rehab process like for you to get back out there? How do you know when you're ready? Is it like, 'Oh I'm not even thinking about it or feeling it anymore'? When do you know you're good?
A: It's a complete effort. Basically, it's how I feel. But at the same time, they always say they don't want to put a player in a position to further hurt themselves. So, reaggravate or injure themselves, hurt themselves even more. It's a little bit of both – just following the game plan, the procedure they've got me doing, working out, rehab. I'm out there sprinkling it into practice and doing my best with how I'm feeling as well.
Q: Was there a point in time where you kind of felt like, 'I feel like I'm ready,' and the doctor's like, 'A little bit longer,'? And now you're extra ready, if you will?
Q: Anything you want to do in practice, or you think you need to prove to yourself, to show yourself that you have the confidence to come back and play in the game on Sunday?
A: Not really. Just go out there and feel like I'm myself. That's pretty much all I can ask for or hope for – just going back out there and feeling like me.
Q: Do you feel like yourself?
A: Do I? Every day I do. Oh, you're talking about on the field. (laughs)
Q: Yes, I meant on the field.
A: We're getting there. We're getting there.
Q: Were you full today?
A: Was I full today? No.
Q: How did X (safety Xavier McKinney) look on the field?
A: He looked good. I mean, I don't know what else. He looked good.
Q: Does he look ready to play to you?
A: I mean, he can move. He just broke his hand. I don't know what else to say; he can run around. I don't know.
Q: After not getting a shot at (Vikings wide receiver Justin) Jefferson last week – the best receiver in the league – how much are you looking forward to getting back? If you guys make the playoffs, it's either (Justin) Jefferson or it's (49ers wide receiver) Deebo (Samuel). How much are you looking forward to getting back and facing a legit guy on a huge stage?
A: Oh, man. Really just looking forward to this week. Hoping we get the win and go from there. But then again, the next step if we make it to the playoffs is not worrying about what may happen. Regardless of the opponent or whoever it may be, I always take it back to 2019. (We) go to the AFC Championship in Tennessee (Titans). It was a Wild Card, and we made it all the way there. So, I don't want to say it doesn't play a factor. But at the same time, you've just got to tackle the task that is at hand.
Q: I assume with your knee, you can run straight ahead with no problem. Is the problem cutting and having belief that you can cut?
A: No. I think that the thing with that is just getting those live reps and not rushing into something, but at the same time, doing the right increments to get yourself ready and prepared. Whenever I get out there – I'm sprinkled in now – be able to sustain it. I can do it once, twice. But can you do it out there (for) 70 plays in that aspect? Just make sure it's strong, healthy, stable to be able to keep doing it play after play.
Q: How difficult has it been on Sundays for you knowing that if you were on the field, you could absolutely help this defense when it's struggling a little bit? But obviously, you couldn't be on the field because of the injury.
A: It just sucks not being able to play with them. That's the most frustrating part in the eyes of a competitor and the eyes of an athlete – wanting to be out there. But at the same time, seeing those guys make plays, I tell them to keep my spirits high when I'm out there rehabbing. I'm out there itching and working to get back out there. So, that's how I look at it regardless of the situation that may play out. It's always frustrating not being out there.
Q: I'm sure you guys don't want to lose him, but you know what guys look for in a head coach. It's pretty obvious that (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) wants to be a head coach. If somebody hired him as a head coach, how do you think players would react to him?
A: I feel like it would be a bummer at the end of the day. We built that relationship in the spring, coming in and knowing him and getting to know him, besides being here, from outside and different players, actually meeting him, talking to him, being coached by him and knowing him as a person. It would suck, but at the end of the day…
Q: How about if you were on the team that hired him? Would you be excited? Do you think guys would like him as a head coach?
A: I believe so. I feel like he has a great personality, a nice swagger about him and he's a good coach. So, I feel like other players, or whoever that happened, would be ecstatic.
Safety Xavier McKinney
Q: Do you anticipate playing this weekend?
A: I'm trying to.
Q: We saw you catching some light passes from (cornerback) Darnay (Holmes) on the side, did you catch anything full speed?
A: Yeah, so before y'all came out there I was on the jugs so it's coming out fast. Yeah, that was before y'all were out there.
Q: What was the plan that they've outlined for you? Have they said, 'We want you back this week? Next week?' Have they spelled that out yet?
A: Yeah, they said they wanted me back the first week I was out, but obviously I couldn't do anything about that. They've communicated with me and told me that they're trying to get me back out there, asking if I can play. I'm telling them I can play, but like I said it's up to the trainers, the docs. I know that they're going to make the best choice and best decision but I'm trying to get back out there.
Q: Can you think of reason though that they could say that you can't play? Given what you're telling us?
A: I don't know, it's on them. I don't know. You'd have to talk to them.
Q: How's your hand? Is it sore after catching full speed passes?
A: No, it's literally the same as what it was before.
Q: Is there a risk of further injury?
A: No. It's just like…
Q: Any normal break?
A: Yeah, it's like any normal break.
Q: How much contact did you give it actually? Like grabbing guys, shedding blocks, that kind of thing?
A: A good bit.
Q: Like full?
A: Yeah. When I was out there, obviously, I'm trying to get back out there so I have to test it out. Anything that I can do to provide a little bit of contact against it, obviously I'm trying to do that to see how much I can take, what I need to do, what I don't need to do. Everything felt fine when I did it.
Q: How much of wanting to get back this week is what's on the line?
A: Man, I want to get back big time. The coaches know that, and the trainers know that. They know that I really want to get back and I'm kind of running out of patience here.
Q: Because of the circumstances of this game?
A: Yeah that, but I've missed a lot of weeks. Obviously, I love the game so I'm trying to get back out there. That's what I do and that's what I love to do so I'm trying to get back out there.
Q: What's your football shape status? Because they didn't let you run for a while, right? Could you even do a bike or anything?
A: Yeah, so I couldn't do anything for a little minute. I had the pins in there so I couldn't do anything, but my condition is great. My legs work still, so there was no drop off when it came to conditioning so I feel fine.
Q: Generally, when you break a bone in your body, your hand is still swollen or your foot is still swollen. Has the swelling at all subsided or is there still some there?
A: I mean there's some there. Like I said, it's got to get used to just the contact part again. You're still going to get a little swelling here and there, but I think that's a part of building that scar tissue. I've dealt with an injury before, so I know how it works. I know that it needs to be pushed a little bit in order to get back to where you want it to get to. That's what I'm doing, and it's been good so far.
Q: Did it give you a good scar?
A: Yeah, it gave me a good scar for sure.
Q: How much does the splint limit you or adjust what you do with your hands because you can't grab a guy's shirt with four fingers?
A: It's going to be different, but I consider myself an athlete, just like a lot of these guys in here, so we're able to adjust. I'll be able to adjust and figure out what works, what doesn't work and what I can do to get around to be able to still, like I have all my hand still, in use of all my fingers. I'll figure it out and we'll go from there.
Q: Why the splint? Why this and not the club?
A: It's not bad, it's just that we're trying to protect it right now because it's coming back. Obviously, I didn't want everything to be restricted and they didn't either because they still wanted me to be able to do, think, catch the ball, do stuff like that. If I would've had a full cast on, then I would've been super limited but with this I can pretty much do everything. The only thing I can't do is grab anybody. I can still hit and extend, all that. My wrist is free, everything's pretty much free except for my four fingers.
Q: When you first kind of had the injury and you talked to trainers and you went through testing after everything had happened, was this kind of the date that you've had circled of like this is when I could return to the field?
A: We didn't have a date really. We were just kind of going. For me, whenever I could get back whether that was three weeks from then, four weeks. So, there was no circled date. I was just trying to basically work my butt off and do whatever they needed me to do. Just making sure that I was always doing my rehab, just so I could get back out there as fast as I could. But we didn't have a planned date or anything, we were just going with how I felt.
Q: Are the bones fully healed?
A: The bones are healed.
Q: Do they require one more X-ray or image for clearing you to play?
A: I don't think so, no. We might do another one, I don't know. Like I said, that's something that the trainers and doctors (decide), we haven't talked about that yet. I don't know, I don't think we'll need another X-ray.
Q: The last time you got one was cause enough?
A: Yeah, the last time, yeah.
Q: Has it driven you up a wall in sense? You look at the last six games, 1-4-1, has it been tough sitting there?
A: Has it been 1-4-1?
Q: I think…
A: We got two, right?
A: We got two. (laughs)
Q: It felt like less.
Q: Has it been tough watching the team struggle without you?
A: No. In this league, you're going to have ups and you're going to have downs. I've been saying that from the jump though. This league is a roller coaster, so you've got to be able to adjust throughout the season. Obviously, injuries happen. We're going to have our ups and our downs and that's what happened. We've just got to learn to adjust, and I think we've done a great job of doing that the past couple of weeks. But no, we're fine.
Q: (Defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale) made a big deal about how the fans could make a big impact at this game. I think even (running back) Saquon (Barkley) sent out a Tweet about that. How do you feel about having this game at home and the difference the crowd could make?
A: Big time. It's obviously a big game for us but I think the fans, just like any other home game, them bringing their energy and them being present is going to be a huge help for us. Like I said, it's just like any other home game that we have. We want them to be loud, we know they will be loud, and it'll be fun.
Q: We're making a big deal about you coming back but (cornerback) Adoree' (Jackson) could be back too. What kind of significance is that for the defense?
A: Big, big time. Like I said, we've been working just trying to get back out there with our team. We've still been present and been in meetings and doing the little things still, so it's been good. It'll be good when we're both back.