December 22, 2016

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report:
“Did not participate: [Su’a] Cravens, upper arm; [Quinton] Dunbar, concussion; [Jordan] Reed, shoulder. Limited were [Will] Compton, knee; [Terence] Garvin, illness; [Chris] Baker, ankle; [Ryan] Kerrigan, elbow; [Martrell] Spaight, shoulder; [Bashaud] Breeland, illness.”

On if CB Quinton Dunbar has been ruled out for Saturday:
“No, but probably.”

On if CB Dashaun Phillips’ promotion to the active roster was for cornerback depth:
“Cornerback and special teams, yeah. Dashaun played for us early in the season. He’s been on our practice squad. He’s been a valuable member of our special teams unit while he’s active and it looks like we’re leaning towards that direction.”

On Bears RB Jordan Howard:
“That’s what you see – you see a strong, physical running back that’s a good one-cut runner and he can run through arm tackles, without a doubt. He’s been very effective for them. Their record does not indicate the type of player that he is or the type of team that they have. To break down their last four losses, they’ve had the ball [with] chances to win games against division-leading teams – Tennessee, Detroit, the Giants and obviously Green Bay last week. They’re a very competitive football team and he’s a very strong running back and a big reason.”

On the mindset of the team going into this game:
“I mean, it’s not rocket science. We are where we are – we’re on the outside looking in. We need some help, but what we need to do is win our game. None of that matters – what other people do – unless we have to take care of what we have to take care of. Going on the road and playing at Chicago is never easy – never, ever, ever is easy. We have to get our guys mentally ready to play. I think mentally they’ll be OK. Physically we have got to do our best to make sure come Saturday afternoon they’re ready to roll.”

On TE Jordan Reed:
“He didn’t do much today, obviously. Did not participate today. So I really don’t have anything to compare it to. Obviously it’s still bothering him a little bit, and we’ll have to gauge it tomorrow before we leave.”

On if he still believes Reed can play this week:
“I felt that way the other day, yes.”

On this week’s preparation:
“It’s been good. It’s what we have to deal with – it’s the only way we can do it. I think we’re getting the most out of it. Now, we’ve had to force-feed some guys – obviously guys who haven’t played a lot, like Phillips and [Nick] Moody has got in here, and we just signed [Zach] Vigil, he’s trying to pick it up a little bit more. But for the most part, the guys that have been here, they understand what we’re trying to do, so mentally we’re OK, like I said. The big thing is to try to get a sweat out there today and get them ready for Saturday.”

On if the team is planning to do a little more tomorrow than on a normal travel day:
“Probably not. We’ll probably do more walkthrough, just hit a couple situational stuff, maybe jog-throughish type thing, maybe sweat a little bit more – two-minute and some short yardage, goal line, things of that nature. Some situational work.”

On if there is a sense of urgency in the locker room:
“Yeah, I hope so. I thought we’ve had sense of urgency – we should – every game we play. You know, you shouldn’t have to wait until Week 16 to say ‘OK, now I’m going to play hard.’ I think we have a majority of our guys [that] have played hard. We just understand that we have to play better. We have to coach better and there’s a lot riding on these games… A big thing we want to do is bounce back from Monday Night Football. You know, it was just not an indication of what we’re about and we want to bounce back from that, get a win and then see what happens.”

On keeping the offense balanced when the run game is not successful:
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s OK to have a one-yard gain or a two-yard gain on a running play, but we have to figure out a way to convert the next two plays into a first down so we can try it again. We had so many three-and-outs that we could not muster up anything in the running game. So the big thing is if you’re going to try to force feed the running game, then you have to be good on third down because odds are you’re going to have some third-and-four, third-and-fives and if you don’t convert those, it’s not going to go well and it didn’t go well.”

On the confidence level of QB Kirk Cousins:
“Well, hopefully he hasn’t lost any. I mean, it was a tough game and everybody has one or two. You look around the league and most great quarterbacks, they don’t have 125 passer rating every week. They’re going to have their ups and downs and this wasn’t all on Kirk, so he’ll bounce back. He’s a professional quarterback and understands how difficult it is every week to be successful and be really, really good, but he’s a guy who’s going to work at it.”

On if Su’a Cravens watching the secondary today indicates a position change:
“He’s just watching. Yeah, no… We’re trying to teach him everything and he feels good about his knowledge as far as the dime linebacker is concerned. He’s trying to branch out and learn more about the safety position, the nickel position, all that and that’s what he’s got to do. That’s why we drafted him, so he’s a versatile guy that can play safety, can play nickel, can play inside backer, whatever it is. So, yeah, that’s what he is doing.”

On if the team has not been physical enough:
“Well, we were not the more physical team Monday night, Carolina was. There is no doubt about it and part of the reason, like I said, third down, our offense, we left our defense hanging, you know? We left them out there on the field too long against a physical football team and they held their own until they wore down at the very end in the four-minute drill when [Jonathan] Stewart had the big run. But, you’re right. That’s our intent is to be a physical football team and I like our physicality up front right now the way we are playing, but it just didn’t show Monday night.”

On what led to the release of WR Rashad Ross:
“Yeah, it’s a tough, tough deal. I think Maurice Harris is the main reason as far as him being active and not active. I think his ability to play more teams and then be a physical presence in our running game has helped a little bit Maurice’s role, but really nothing against Ross. This came down to numbers. We’ve got four or five guys that are on our active football team that are not able to play, so we had to make a move with unfortunately a healthy body, which you never like to do. So hopefully some way we may get him back but right now it is just something we have to do from a roster-number standpoint.”

On his Christmas wish:
“[Laughter] Right now, I feel like the Scrooge, just so you know. We’re in Scrooge mentality right now. Our job is to play a football game, coach a football game, so we’re not in the Christmas spirit right now. However, we do take Christmas serious and it will be a heck-of-a lot more fun if we get a victory in Chicago. But it’s all about being with your family and your friends, and having a good time, man. Giving, giving, it’s all about giving.”

QB Kirk Cousins

On his level of confidence:
“Yeah, just staying the course. Not my first time coming away from a tough loss. I’ve learned through all my years of playing football to just keep going and not ride the roller coaster and get back to work and do what you know to do as you prepare for the next one. Come ready to go with an intense focus and help get other guys ready and go play. And trust that your preparation and your talent and the experience you have will be good enough to get back up and have a good outing.”

On if his trust in his preparation and talent is more important during a short week:
“Yeah, the compressed schedule is what it is. Can’t control it, so we don’t worry about it. Frankly, when we played in Dallas, it was a short week and we were able to move the football and had a good outing on offense from that standpoint. So we don’t really look to make excuses. Just excited for what we have to play for. We have a great opportunity now if we can win out, and we have to go into Chicago and come out with a win if we want to finish with the kind of season that we hoped to at the start of the year.”

On if he draws on the team’s success from the end of last season:
“I guess about all you draw on is just experience. When I talk about stacking up those experiences and how they can’t hurt, I guess that’s maybe where the value is. But, no, they’re each their own game and don’t have a whole lot of bearing on one another. You have to go out and prove it every single week, and frankly they all feel like must wins from Week 1 to Week 17. You just feel like we’ve got to get this one because you don’t know what’s coming down the road. So while a sense of urgency is high, it really always feels high from the start to the finish.”

On the running game on Monday night:
“Yeah, I just think if you don’t target the right people, if there’s an unblocked person in the box and he can just run right into the gap and make the play and without any impedance, then it’s going to be tough to run the football. So there were a few where there’s just an unblocked player at the point of attack. And other ones, guys just… the mesh on the blocks or the timing, they just weren’t quite on the same page and the guy slips it off. It happens, so unfortunately we couldn’t get that rhythm going and then when you do get behind and get in a bit of a two-minute mode, then you are forced to throw the football. So it made it tough to be as balanced as we want to be and have the kind of offense that we’re capable of having when the run game is rolling.”

On how defensive players are targeted in the running game:
“It’s a combination of people because the center makes his point but at the same time the guard, tackle and tight end all have to fit off of that. And even if the center’s point is right, it may be someone outside of that who ended up not fitting properly. So if we’re looking for someone to point fingers at, I think it’s a combination of everybody, you know, and I don’t know that it’s any one person over and over and over.”

On what he sees from the Bears’ defense:
“I think their team is a great example of the parity that exists in the NFL. I know people have laughed when I think, you know, I said how the difference between maybe 6-10 and 10-6 really isn’t that much. I just look at them and see a really talented defense. Statistically they’re getting a lot of sacks. They’re not giving up many yards. I think they’re ninth overall, so they’re a top 10 defense. So it presents a great challenge, and then you add the fact we’re on the road. This is going to be a tough one and we just… Everybody’s playing for their own reasons and the Bears are no different. They’ve got a lot to play for in terms of each individual player trying to make a stake for their career. We’re going to have a big challenge and we don’t really put an emphasis on records because we know how good teams are across the league.”

On his role in firing up the offense:
“Yeah, I think it goes both ways. I think as a quarterback it will always be a major role of mine to elevate the play of the other players in the huddle. If I step in the huddle and the 10 guys there are not going to play better as a result of me being in the huddle, then what am I doing? So, I believe as a quarterback, trying to be a leader as a team captain, and in order to be able to have a good career, yes, you need to elevate the play of the guys around you. That being said, we’re all professionals, we’re all grown men, and if it takes a rah-rah speech to get you to the right place, then you’re probably not going to last very long. So there’s no doubt we want to have real influence on the guys around us, but at the same time, we all need to get ourselves ready to go.”

On his mindset regarding the playoff picture:
“It would be a waste of my time and energy to worry about stuff I can’t control, so I’ll focus on the Chicago Bears. After that, we’ll focus on the next game, and that’s all I need to focus on. Frankly, I don’t need to know much else. You can let me know after the last game where we stand. Control what I can control, and let the rest fall where it may. But it’ll be a great opportunity here just to get to a place where we can finish with a winning record. Just the Chicago game, focusing right there, would be a great step in the right direction. Let’s get this one and it’s not going to be easy.”





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