December 14, 2016

QB Kirk Cousins

On why he’s been able to find WR DeSean Jackson deep the last few weeks:
“In a couple of the instances that we have hit him, it’s been dictated by my read. I said to you those weeks, ‘I go where my reads take me,’ and I wasn’t lying to you. In those situations my reads took me to him. So when you have the play call against a certain coverage, he gets the football. If you don’t have that, then someone else will. We’re fortunate to get those situations where he can change the game like that on one catch, one play.”

On if WR Pierre Garçon has gotten the ball more in recent weeks in part because of TE Jordan Reed’s injury:
“I think no matter who’s on the field we spread it around. So if Jordan is out you bring in Derek Carrier and Vernon [Davis] and they get touches too. So the ball gets spread around. You saw Rob Kelley had a couple of catches on Sunday. So it’s really just whoever’s in the game and where the play ends up taking you. But there’s no doubt that Pierre still has that ability to go down the field and still has that speed that was brought here to have four or five years ago. So he hasn’t really lost that as he’s gotten older, which is a testament to the way he works in the offseason, the way he continues to take care of himself. And he is very versatile in that way where he can give you a lot of different routes in the pass game. He’s not one-dimensional.”

On how Garçon runs his routes in practice as compared to games:
“Well, he always practices really hard and I think that goes back to his days in Indianapolis with a really good offense and some Hall of Famers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne and playing with Peyton Manning. I think there was a standard of excellence there that he knows no other way to do it. So he’s always done it at that high level, but he’s a very explosive athlete so there’s also some natural ability there that you can’t coach that when he does run his routes, he gets in and out of cuts in a very powerful, explosive way that is unique to him. And pound for pound he could be the most powerful, explosive guy on the team with the athleticism that he has.”

On last season’s game against the Panthers:
“I remember Carolina being one of the better teams we played all year, certainly one of the better defenses we played all year. A lot of the same players are back so we’re going to have our hands full. I remember we had five turnovers and if we turn the ball over again we can expect a similar result. We’ve got to protect the football and if we do that, we’ve got a chance, but if we turn it over, we’ll put ourselves in a hole just like we did last year.”

On to what he attributes his accuracy on passes downfield in recent weeks:
“I don’t know. I think it’s getting the right plays against the right coverages and hitting those throws, but I’ve always felt like we’ve been pretty efficient when we do take our shots, so hard to say why the numbers might show it’s been better as of late. Guys are making plays and the play calls are happening at the right times against the right coverages. It puts me in a position to be successful.”

On how much he can work on throwing downfield:
“There’s definitely always… you’re building that chemistry where you’re figuring out where guys should be. I think when you throw the ball down the field sometimes you have to let the ball go with some trust. I think the Arizona game was an example where DeSean [Jackson] caught that deep ball and when I let the ball go he hadn’t quite gotten on top of the defensive back yet. You just trust that down the field he’ll eventually pull away. And that’s through years really of throwing with him and realizing how that plays out. But other players are no different and you rep these plays over and over in training camp and in practice and you get a feel for them. And that builds that trust and understanding of coverages and reads and when to let the ball go with anticipation.”

On the Panthers’ rookie corners:
“I think they’re playing well. I think that especially when you factor in that they’re rookies, it’s hard to come into this league and play right away and understand coverages and concepts and play fast. So very impressive that they’ve been able to play at a high level as rookies. It’s not easy to do.”

On comparing the Panthers’ defense from last season to this season:
“I do think their defense is still very good. Like I said, a lot of the same players and very smart players, so we expect a great challenge. I think any team you play, it happened to be against a really good defense last year, but if we had turned the ball over five times against anybody else, we probably would’ve been blown out as well. We made it tough on our defense. We gave them a short field and we weren’t able to score points and were turning it over. If we were to do that against anybody, we were going to have an uphill battle. And I think that was a big part of how the game got away from us and that’s why ball security and turnover margins are such important stats and tend to favor winning teams.”

On his growth since the last game against the Panthers:
“Hopefully we don’t turn it over five times. I think growth would be to protect the football going forward. Any game, anything can happen, but you would like to think we’re a more mature team when it comes to managing, and each play had a reason. One was an overthrow to DeSean for an interception. You’d like to think that that ball would maybe would be thrown a little bit more accurately now. You’d like to think so. I’m still going to miss throws but you’d like to think that as you get better those plays don’t happen. One was a corner blitz that ended up hitting me in the back and I fumbled. One was a short edge where I was looking left and I fumbled getting stripped. Another one was a running back fumbled. So you just hope that as a football team you’re a little more mature and you protect the ball better and can avoid those turnovers.”

On if he thought RB Chris Thompson should have allowed the Redskins to run the clock instead of scoring:
“It had been mentioned [but] didn’t get into me, so I didn’t communicate it to Chris. In hindsight, I think we talked about the opportunity to notify Chris that, ‘Hey, if you do break through, go down at the one and then we can talk about running the clock down and then try to score late when there is very little time left to do anything if you give the ball back to them.’ With what happened in the Cincinnati game, I think there would have been some consternation with just settling for a field goal. You never want to leave it up to a play when you know you had an opportunity to score. But we certainly didn’t notify the running back and notify the offense. That’s where situational football is so important. Going back to your question about being a different football team, the longer we play together as a unit – and when I’m talking about we, I mean from Jay [Gruden] to Sean [McVay] to myself to Chris Thompson to Trent Williams to Pierre [Garçon] – the longer we play together, the more you can become situational masters and be very good in situational football like that situation at the end of the game, where we all know, ‘We’ve been here before, hey, let’s handle this the best way possible and be a mature football team.’”

On if he can relate to Panthers QB Cam Newton’s struggles this season:
“If you’re asking if I can relate to failure, I would say yes, I can relate to failure. I don’t know that Cam has failed at the level that a lot of guys in this league have failed. He’s still a very successful player, and believe me, Coach Gruden and the defense is very aware of what he is capable of doing and very nervous about his strengths. Can I relate to it though – being a part of some struggles? Sure, yeah, I can relate to that.”

On if he can feel for Newton’s recent struggles given Newton’s success last season:
“Yeah, and I’m sure he’ll be back on top quickly. It’s fickle, as you know. This league goes up and down. It pats you on the back one day and then you clearly don’t have it figured out the next. I’m sure he’ll be fine, and over the long haul, he’s going to be a great player in this league. We all know that. Those of us that watch him on film understand how talented he is.”

On if CB Josh Norman has shared any insight on the Panthers’ defense:
“Yeah, it really goes back to the spring. I knew that when we got to this point there isn’t much time to pull him away from his preparation and to take that time. That goes back to April or May, cornering him and saying, ‘Hey, can you talk to me about the defense and I’ll take some notes and get some thoughts on Carolina’s defense so that come the week of the game, it’s already there.’ So we talked a little bit about the coverages and things, but at the end of the day, it’s about executing and being on top of our stuff and just reacting to how they play it.”

On how much information he uses from Norman as compared to his own film study:
“It’s worth talking through it. It’s not like he’s going to be able to predict the future, but it’s worth it. If he’s on your team and he’s there and he’s available – why not? At least ask. I’m always looking for any opportunity to gain some insight.”

On having Norman on his side and how it helps him:
“What I love about Josh – and when I trained with him before the NFL Draft back in 2012, I got a feel for it long before he ever came here – but what I’ve always loved about him is that he’s a worker. There’s just a… I know it may not come across in the media with the answers or the way he answers questions, but he’s just a quiet, humble leader on this team who goes about his business. You see him stay after practice. Winning matters to him. He’s been a part of a winning team and he knows what that looks like. So when you have a veteran player like that who a lot of young players are looking to as an example – and the example he’s setting is one of hard work, humility, just staying the course, caring about fundamentals, caring about details in the game plan, you see him make some very important plays in key moments of games. I just think that’s a great thing for our culture and trying to go in that direction as an entire organization. I think getting some of your best players to be your best leaders can make a big difference. That’s where I guess I’m most pleased with Josh on top of his ability. I saw that back when we were training for the draft when we would do one-on-ones and the way he would approach those and compete, try to really lock guys down. It was impressive back then.”

Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera

On the development of QB Kirk Cousins:
“The basic thing you see from watching Kirk Cousins is, you know – and again I’m going off initially when we play them and then watching him throughout the rest of the year – is that the young man has gotten better and better. He’s got a tremendous amount of confidence and I thought he finished last year on a strong note for the team. Watching him this year, he’s in that same mode. I see him building his confidence. I see him making good decisions, delivers a good ball, has got the ability to make most throws, you know? He’s a very headsy guy. I think he has got great command of Coach [Jay] Gruden’s offense and I really do, I see why they like who he is. I mean, he really is a…He’s a playoff-caliber quarterback who’s still a young player, too. Let’s be honest about that. It’s not like he’s been in the league seven or eight years. I mean, this is a young man that is developing and growing.”

On if the notion that Cousins has earned a long-term contract is ‘frivolous’:
“No, I think it is a possibility. I don’t want to speak for them on what they should do with their quarterback, but I do think he is growing and he’s going to be a solid football player in this league. And as I said, he seems to be more and more comfortable in Coach Gruden’s offense and, you know, again, if he gets in the playoffs, it’s going to be up to them to make their own decision on what they want to do but I think Kirk Cousins is a solid football player in this league.”

On what he remembers most about CB Josh Norman as a rookie and throughout his tenure in Carolina:
“First of all, Josh is a good person. He has got a terrific heart, he really is. Secondly, he has always been flamboyant. Third, he is stubborn, hard-headed, but he listens, he learned and he grew and you saw his development. He’s become, you know, for what we felt for us was ‘that guy.’ And, again, things happen and unfortunately he is not here, but he is solid football player and as I said a much better person.”

On handling Norman’s stubbornness and what he learned about Norman during those experiences:
“How tough and resilient he is. I mean, it was tough. He was a starter then we benched him. Then he became a starter again, then we benched him again. But each time he came back, he practiced harder, he stayed longer after practice doing the little detail things and as a coach you take notice. You take notice that a guy is willing to do the extra things to improve his game and that’s why Josh Norman is who he is. He did the extra things. He studies his opponent, he practiced extra, he got other guys to stay after with him, which shows to some of his leadership qualities. But again, he is a personality. He is his own guy.”

On the positive takeaways from this season:
“Well, we’re learning about our young guys. You know, we’ve got a lot of young guys that have had to play this year, especially at the cornerback position and they’re getting playing time. That’s probably the most valuable thing you can give a young player is the opportunity to get on the football field and develop. Hopefully as we continue to go forward we can do some good things, win some football games and continue the development of our football team.”

On if he has to prepare his players for an emotional reunion with Norman:
“We don’t have to worry about that. I think the guys know what to expect from Josh. That’s the beauty of it [laughter]. No, because that’s who he is. He was like that in practice. That’s one thing about Josh, too, he practiced like he played. Those interceptions he made for us last year, he made in practice, so it was no surprise when he made those interceptions. The one he made against New Orleans last year, he made that in practice. The one he made against Jacksonville, he made that in practice. You go back and you look at all of those things that he does – those are things that he practices. Those long arms of his come into play and he used them in practice and so you had confidence that he was going to make things happen.”

On if Norman’s spirit helped the level of play of other players on the team:
“Well, first of all, the way he practiced, it raised the level of guys around him – whether he was competing against our offensive guys or if it was the defensive guys that he was working with. And then he brought a swagger to us as well. There was a cockiness that kind of spread – the way the defensive backs handled themselves. When you have a guy like that, that has his own style and his type of own style in terms of bringing energy, guys feed off of that and that’s what happened. Again, in a lot of ways, he has an infectious quality to who he is in terms of his style of play.”

On what he did to contain Norman’s emotions in Carolina:
“Well, I don’t think ‘containing’ is a fair word. I think what you do with Josh – what I did with Josh – is I talked to him personally on a man-to-man level. That’s what I talk about when I say that he’s a good person. Josh understands where I was coming from and we had great conversations about that. I always told him that I appreciated the way he handled things for the most part. He’s one of those guys that really, to me, you treat him like a man, you talk to him man-to-man, and he understands and he gets it. He’s one of those kind of guys. He’s always looking for a mentor. He’s always looking for someone to talk with – whether it was with myself, the position coach, the coordinator, a teammate that he leaned on, or our owner. Josh reached out because he’s one of those kind of guys that loves information. He wants to know.”

On what he would like to duplicate from last year’s game against Washington:
“Win [laughter]. When you look at them, there’s a lot more to who they are now because they’re a year more into their system. Coach Gruden I think has got a terrific-style of offense. They do some really good things. He has got a lot of weapons on there, also. When you look at the receiver position with [DeSean] Jackson and [Pierre] Garçon, you most certainly have got to be aware of them. Those guys are dangerous. Then you have got Jamison Crowder, who comes in in situational football for them and makes things happen. He’s a special teams guy. I like the tight end position. I think they’re loaded with [Jordan] Reed and [Vernon] Davis and [Derek] Carrier is not a bad tight end at all either. They have got three quality guys for them that make things happen. Then I think their running attack is solid. It’s led by Robert Kelley – he’s a good football player. But, again, to me it all starts with Kirk Cousins, and he’s done a nice job. Again, to me, that group has really come along. You see their offensive line playing better and better and better and better. This is one of those things where the more consistency you have at a position – especially at offensive line – the better they’re going to be. You look at what they’re doing on defense and I think Joe Barry and his coaches do a nice job. It’s out of the 3-4 style of defense and they’ve got playmakers. That’s a thing we have got to be aware of.”

On the most difficult part of this season given the high expectations following a Super Bowl appearance:
“First of all, trying to live up to those expectations. They were very high, and I agree, mine were very high as well. Disappointed obviously we’re in the situation that we’re in right now where every game that we play counts and there is no room for error and we have got to rely on certain other things happening. That’s tough. That’s difficult to fathom right now, especially in light of the season we’re coming off. Then, having to deal with the different injuries we’ve had this year and shuffling our team around a little bit – that’s been the hard part more so than anything else. I think I have a good group of guys. I think there’s a good culture in the locker room. These guys are going to come out, they’re going to play hard, and they’re going to play to win. That’s what we’re working towards.”

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

On his competitiveness with Redskins CB Josh Norman:
“Well, you know, Josh is a person that’s been around this organization for four years, and that’s a long time in this league. We’ve had some candid events where competition may have took a turn for the best and for the worst. But, one thing about it, me and Josh are and will remain friends outside of football. That’s what you have to love about him.”

On times when the competition ended up for the best:
“Well, we became close friends. I respect his game. I can’t really speak for him, but to see where he’s come from – coming from a relatively smaller school – and having that chip on his shoulder since day one… His approach and his mentality is consistent, and that’s what you have to respect.”

On the 5-on-5 games that happen between Norman’s brothers and Newton’s cousins:
“[Laughter] Listen here, man, at the end of the day, I feel as if it’s a pending season. It’s not over yet. Body composition is very important when we’re talking about playing against ‘DB-like’ players, and you have got another offensive line-like team with a God-type figure, but I can only do but so much. I have got other guys… But, any-who, like I say, I respect Josh and I know him and his family off the field. This is a relationship that will go further than football.”

On other games he played against Norman:
“[Laughter] Damn, you know everything about the whole doggone team [laughter].”

On who is involved on his side of the 5-on-5 games:
“We just go out and just have fun. Really it’s just like a cardio session. It’s funny to hear him and his brothers interact because all if them have got nicknames for each other. They don’t call each other by their real names. They call themselves ‘Fat’ and ‘Back Fat,’ ‘Chubby’, ‘Boobie’ – you don’t know who is talking to who. They’ve got code names for their plays, they’re running plays in basketball, they’re asking for subs in a 5-on-5 game [laughter], I can’t handle it, man. We just do recreational, pickup games of basketball. They have got team jerseys and stuff [laughter].”

On if he plays with his cousins:
“No, we’ve played a multitude of games. Norman-Newton games, it’s probably been once or twice. We try to disperse it as equal as possible. Josh takes more of a ‘family-matic’ – if that’s even a word – approach. He chooses the players that he’s more familiar with. I feel as if I can win with anybody with my God-like skills and me being a team player, put the whole team on my back like LeBron [James] at any given moment. So it is what it is.”

On what the talk is like in the games:
“Let’s just say it’s not something that your mama would like to hear [laughter].”

On Norman’s worst sport:
“I don’t know, man. See, if you ask Josh that, Josh is probably going to tell you that he doesn’t have a sport that he isn’t good at. I don’t know, man. Let’s just say a spelling bee [laughter].”

On when the relationship with Norman developed into what it is now:
“I can’t really pinpoint it, I just know it was only a certain amount of people while Josh was on the team he felt comfortable with in talking to. As a person of him who grew up idolizing and respecting the NFL and when he got here, he just took full advantage of his opportunity. And him going to Washington was no different. You have to respect the man for being able to take care of his household and that’s what he’s done. And for me knowing him off the field makes me even love this game even more because I have long-lasting relationships that this game has [given] me and I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

On people not knowing the relationship between him and Norman:
“The thing that people don’t realize is, when you talk about great teams, when you talk about great players, they challenge each other. For them, for everyone to realize… I’m pretty sure Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen got into it; obviously Shaq and Kobe. LeBron probably got into it with a lot of his players; Peyton, Tom and those guys. Mine was just the only time where social media was really blasting at the time and one little picture just took over. But before practice even ended, we had already made up and I told him if it takes me doing that, I’ll do it again for me to get the best out of him, And I would expect nothing less for him to do the same for me. And he went out there and had an All-Pro season.”

On his reaction when he found out that Norman was no longer on the team:
“Obviously, I’m not going to cry over spilled milk. Josh is there now and there’s no need for me to talk about something that I have no control over.”

On what he remembers about the team’s performance in its last matchup with the Redskins:
“Well, it was a result of great execution and an unbelievable week. I remember very vivid that week we had a great week of practice. A couple of guys were being challenged, not only from peers but from coaches and they stepped up to the plate and made big plays in that game.”

On his performance in the last matchup with the Redskins:
“Well, just for me, as a quarterback, sometimes you get over-praised and sometimes you get overly beat-up. Because when a team succeeds, the quarterback typically gets all the praise, and when a team doesn’t succeed, the bulk of the blow goes to the quarterback. So I just had the results of being on a great team with unbelievable defense and guys just around taking turns making plays.”

On what he’s learned about praise and criticism this season:
“I wouldn’t say I learned anything more so than just appreciating the whole process.”

On if he had any input in trying to keep Norman in Carolina:
“I just stay in my lane.”

On if he has become used to the scrutiny:
“I don’t call it scrutiny. I call it appealing the people.”

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