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What They Said: Sean McDermott on injuries, turnovers and more heading into Chiefs game

Opening Statement: Alright. Hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving and we’ll open it up for questions.

Q: How about an update on where people stand? Who is out and such for the game?

A: Out for the game will be John Miller, Cordy Glenn and Mike Tolbert.

Q: And what’s the update, then, with Kelvin Benjamin?

A: Right. We’re going to continue to evaluate. He is still day-to-day.

Q: Do you expect him to practice today?

A: I don’t think he’s going to practice at this point, but I’m going to go from here and get an update on that.

Q: Coach, with the injuries that you’ve had at receiver, did that affect your planning this week at all, knowing you’ve got three guys knicked up there?

A: You know, we’ve got some guys knicked up but we feel confident in, number one, their abilities and then they’re working through some of those bumps and bruises. Those are all part of what happens this time of the year.

Q: Sean, why was it important for you to have Len Vanden Bos full-time on your staff?

A: Well, I just think when you talk about providing the resources for our players, and our staff too, that it’s, and this is a compliment to our ownership, too, that they’re willing to invest to do that and when you do that, in my mind, there’s mind, body and spirit involved. There’s an element of that that the players need both on and off the field. Len’s been a valuable addition to our staff and he led us in a team prayer yesterday after practice. We’re fortunate to have him.

Q: You had a great stretch of four games where you were taking the ball away and it had a lot to do with the 5-2 start. That’s dried up. How do you reconcile the idea that it’s gone now three games where you’ve gotten away from what drove this engine so strong and what are some of the steps that you can take and try to rectify that.

A: With respect to the takeaways? Just daily work – just like everything else, we’re going to continue to work, continue to build, continue to earn the right [to win]. It’s an emphasis and we continue to emphasize it. As you’ve heard me say before, there [are] times when they come in clumps. That’s how they go sometimes [with] takeaways. That’s all part of it. You’ve been around this game a long time and I’m sure this isn’t the first time it’s happened. We’ve got to continue to get those. Those are critical. You watch some of the games yesterday: you turn the ball over [and] it’s going to be hard to win games like that. Turnover differential is a big part of winning. That’s a critical stat.

Q: You were emphasizing it before, obviously. That’s always been a big part of you and coaching. What’s happened maybe in the course of those three [losses]? Can you put a finger on the last three games? You’ve had more issues than that but [the lack of takeaways has] stood out and I can’t believe it’s because you’re not emphasizing it as much as you did through the first seven games.

A: Right, and it’s never one thing. It’s always about putting pressure on our opponent through our fundamentals, through our pressure schemes, through our different things we do in the kicking game, and that’s all part of it. When you talk about teams turning the ball over, it’s because they’re pressured in some way, shape or form. Fundamentally, leverage-wise, and that’s really what we continue to emphasize as we build this thing.

Q: You’ve been in the league a while and in your experience, how much of turnovers boils down to a little bit of luck because the ball has to bounce your way, obviously, and there’s a lot of stuff you coach, but how much of it in your experience is luck?

A: There’s certainly a certain degree of that in terms of the ball bouncing your way. I get that. That said, there’s a lot of that you can control also. Ball on the ground – had a situation earlier in my career where the ball was on the ground and we weren’t able to recover it, and then you look back at yourself and say ‘as a coach, am I drilling that?’ Even something as simple as a fumble recovery, whether it’s trying to scoop and score or the right technique or trying to recover in terms of what we call the fetal position. That’s part of it, too. Am I drilling that? Am I exposing my players to that position [and] that situation? You try and take as much of the unknown or the luck out of it and say ‘are we controlling as much as we can control?’ in terms of that part of the game.

Q: How has Reggie Ragland looked in Kansas City from watching them?

A: It looks like he’s doing a good job.

Q: Sean, understanding there’s less and less games on the schedule, how close of a maybe must-win or how much do you realize and understand the urgency of how we need to get things back on track?

A: Well, we’re focused on one game and that’s this game in front of us this weekend with the Chiefs. [They’re] a good opponent. Anything other than that, like I said before, is a distraction. We’re focused on continuing to build, continuing to earn the right [to win] and moving towards our vision. That is part of, and focus on the Chiefs is a big part of that.

Q: Sean, I know you never want to play this game other than full speed, but when Tyreek Hill has the ball in his hands and he’s doing everything in the open field, do you somewhat have to kind of slow play a little bit so you don’t grasp at air, so to speak, and kind of play him a little bit differently maybe than you would some other players because he’s so dynamic?

A: Yeah, he’s a great player. Dynamic player. I believe it’s his second year in the league, if I’m not mistaken there. He makes you have great defensive spacing, not only on defense but also on special teams and some of that is awareness as to where we are or where my teammate is so that we’re not stacking one another. We play with great leverage on the ball. This offense makes, as does Tyreek Hill, makes you tackle in space and so our angles to the football [and] our fundamentals have to be top notch.

Q: It’s kind of like LeSean [McCoy]. When he’s in the hole, guys are sometimes grasping and he’s gone. Do you have to do anything differently that week preparing for that special player because he’s just such a different guy when he’s coming with the ball in his hands right at you and you maybe have to do something different than you would normally practice?

A: You know, I believe if you’re doing things right fundamentally, not necessarily. There might be a little tweak here and there but overall, if you’re doing things the right way fundamentally from the start, that gives you a chance. With a great player like this, we’ve got to make sure we swarm [and] that we get eleven hats to the football. We’ve preached that since day one of how important it is in terms of running to the football, no different now. He’s a great player.

Q: Are you confident in your team’s ability to swarm the ball?

A: Absolutely.

Q: I know Alex Smith isn’t the first quarterback you guys have faced that can lengthen a play. What’s the general rule of thumb defensively when you have a quarterback [that can do that]? Is it ‘let’s just cover longer’ or is there just a general expectancy? You might have some plays that could go six seconds.

A: I think a big part of it to start is the awareness that that could be the case. Knowing who your personnel is that you’re facing and who the quarterback is, in this case; and then the technique that has to click in when you face a situation like this with Alex, and the ability to plaster and when he does extend plays in the passing game, the ability to plaster the receivers and then who’s responsible for him up front? That’s a big part of it as well.

Q: What have you noticed about how the team has responded to the latest quarterback change during practice this week?

A: They’re focused on the Chiefs. They’re focused on the Chiefs and they’re focused on the process, like we’ve talked about since day one, just like I would expect them to be.

Q: Alex [Smith] isn’t up there, nationally perceived-wise, with guys like [Aaron] Rodgers, [Drew] Brees, [Tom] Brady and those guys, but when you look at his career, should he kind of be mentioned in the next breath of those guys? He’s had a really good career when you look at the numbers.

A: Well, he has. When you look at the places he’s been, they’ve won. I know he’s won a lot of games for the Chiefs and he’s obviously played well this year. He knows how to move an offense down the field and we have a lot of respect for how he plays and what he does.

Q: Have you given any consideration to putting Cordy Glenn on Injured Reserve?

A: We always, Brandon [Beane] and I always talk about everything. We look at all of our different options from all different angles. This case, no different.

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