Head coach Sean McDermott
Opening statement: We have two guys that aren’t going to practice today: First one is Jerel Worthy with a concussion and the second one is LeSean [McCoy], we’re just going to [give him] a rest day. He has a little bit of a groin, but nothing to be concerned about. It was a scheduled rest day pretty much, and we’re going to do that once in a while with our veteran guys. With that you can go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q: Was that scheduled when LeSean suffered a groin injury?
A: No, in my mind I was going to. Always want to make sure we take care of some of those guys that need some rest.
Q: You were already planning on resting him, but there was also a groin injury that happened this week?
A: Yeah, it’s soreness, nothing [serious].
Q: What happened with Leonard Johnson yesterday?
A: Just a little bit of a quad. Limited him a little bit yesterday, but nothing to be concerned about.
Q: He’ll be good for Sunday?
Q: To the question of, we all pushed this theme of the homecoming for you, for Brandon [Beane], if that mattered to you and to your players, too much say, it would seem to contradict the whole 1/11 thing, there’s a little bit of a conflict going on with that, are you careful not to push that a little too much, and how much would it mean to you to win this particular game, your players could be [like], we want to win this one for coach?
A: That’s the wrong approach, that is 100-percent the wrong approach. They don’t need to win anything for me, I get where you’re coming from, that’s fair and reasonable to think. I would never want them to win one for the coach, let’s just go out and do what we do, and embrace who we are, and continue to get better. That’s really the process that I want us focused on.
Q: And what I was leading to was, are you cautious about avoiding that, because I know you’d want to avoid that.
A: Yes and no. I think a lot about where we are as a team more so, and our development. Let’s remind ourselves we are in the second week of our season, and they’re in year seven, we’re in week two. We just have so much opportunity for growth on a daily basis, that that’s really where our focus is. That’s why it’s so important that we focus on that process. I know you guys sometimes laugh at me for saying that over and over again, but I’m such a believer in that. It’s the respect for what it takes to win, and the development that has to happen every day, and the work you have to put in every day, the focus. That’s really where my focus is and I hope our focus is as a team.
Q: Do you think too many guys look at the finish line too quickly? From what you’ve been around in the league, is that why it’s so important to you to make sure they focus on every day and the process, because too much, they get caught up in the finish line and not the start line?
A: Yeah, there’s a lot of things out there that can grab guys’ attention as in the results. This result, that result, and the result comes when you focus on the time between now and the result. The results tend to take care of themselves, and sometimes they do in the way you want them to, and sometimes they don’t, sometimes there’s a little bit of a lag effect where you’re working. Then, you don’t get the results that you want, but there’s small victories that just aren’t showing up on the outside. I’ve been around that, again that window of time, between now and the results you’re trying to get, and you have to focus on that. There’s a lot of great things that go on in those moments, between now and the game, and those are fun, those are fun to watch. The competitiveness of our football team on the football field, watching guys compete. One of the things yesterday I saw was an early round draft pick competing with an undrafted player. Early round draft pick gets the upper hand early, later on in practice the undrafted player gets the upper hand. That’s embracing really who we are, guys not being afraid to make mistakes but playing free, embracing who we are, and there’s a lot of power in that. That’s really what building our culture is all about, is those types of moments early on here for sure.
Q: You did an interview with one of the Panther beat guys, and what jumped out was you’re talking about having an office or a place close to the locker room, would you expand on what your thinking was about having that location, and the fact that you were seeing going through there, is it about trying to get a good feel for the pulse of the team, that sort of thing?
A: It is, it’s about me being around, and not just myself, but all of our coaches, and all of our support staff, in terms of, hey, we’re around our players, it’s not a divide between [us]. A lot of buildings are set up such that floor one is the locker room and floor two is everyone’s office. Well, the dynamic is, how do you communicate. To your point, yeah, I want to know the pulse of our football team, and you get that by being around, whether it’s the locker room or meeting rooms. I just came from some meetings, in the meeting rooms, with the players. Being able to feel that I think is important as a leader, and also to be able to listen to what’s going on, and the communication between players and coaches, coaches and players. In terms of where we are as a team, week-to-week, what’s the vibe going on in the locker room, and where do I want I to be as opposed to where we are. As you guys know, I have a leadership council, and that’s part of that also. Having the office down here allows me to be more readily accessible, bringing in a player, having a coach in, and those are good dynamic-type meetings that I like to have in there. The relationships that are built from being around one another, hard to develop that when you’re living in two different houses, right, so I want the players to know just the same. They can come upstairs, and it’s not something that should be looked down on, it’s something that is encouraged, come upstairs, sit down let’s talk life, let’s talk football, current events, whatever it is.
Q: To follow up on Vic’s point, you were in the locker room on Wednesday, hanging out, I know a lot of the reporters left the locker room like, wow, he was just kind of hanging out watching everything, is that part of what you’re talking about?
A: Yeah, be careful what we say, I may get in trouble for just hanging out, I’m supposed to be doing this, this, this and this, so let’s not report that (jokingly). Yeah, it’s being around, just being around for the guys. I have mentioned this before, to me it’s not a vertical type of infrastructure, it’s more of a horizontal [infrastructure]. At some point, yes, I have the final say, that said it’s important that the guys know I’m a normal guy. I’m a human being that has a family, and I want them to see that. To me, that’s healthy, because it allows them to have space to be who they are, if they’re seeing me be who I am. There shouldn’t be a great divide between the two.
Q: In terms of Carolina, you talked a lot about Cam Newton the other day, and the one-two punch in the backfield with [Christian] McCaffrey and [Jonathan] Stewart, what did you see from them as you prepared for Sunday?
A: Extremely talented, you’ve heard me say this before, football team overall. Now they’ve added McCaffrey to a backfield that was already talented with Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker, and then Cam’s running ability. They’re a hard group to stop, we’ve got be aware of situational football, and being aware all the time of how we line up and make sure we communicate.
Q: With [Luke] Kuechly, [Thomas] Davis and [Kurt] Coleman, their takeaway numbers over the last two or three years, as I’m sure you’re well aware of, are among the league leaders in their respective positions, how do you balance the risk-reward when you’re putting a game plan together? Is there just a restricted area as far as the passing game with these guys, how do you balance that as you’re putting a game plan together without getting into specifics?
A: They’re a tough group to prepare for because they’re so athletic. Luke is so aware of things, and they do a great job of communicating on their end as well. You just have to be aware of where he is, and they do a great job of taking the ball away on defense. That was a big part of their formula last week, and I’m sure one of their big goals this week against us will be to take the ball away. We have to be very aware of that and do our part in terms of respecting the football. They thrive off of taking the ball away and setting their offense up with short fields.
Q: To be clear on LeSean, you have no doubt on his ability to either play Sunday or also have a full workload?
A: Very confident.
Q: Talked with some of your offensive linemen, they of course have a healthy respect for the entire defense, but the name that comes up a lot is Kawann Short. You were a part of Kawann coming to you in 2013 with that early pick, but what makes him so special, he’s the name that they say this is the guy that can really do some damage?
A: One of the best pass rushers, one of the best interior linemen in the game. Had a chance to be around Kawann when we drafted him, and Eric Washington, their defensive line coach, does a great job in developing players, and Kawann’s no different in this case with the way he’s developed over the years. He can be disruptive if you don’t get a hat on him, or two hats on him, and his run game is just as good as his pass game, and vice versa. Extremely talented player, works extremely hard. It’s been hard to say this from the sideline I sit on now, but it’s been a joy to watch him develop over the years and being there for at least the start of his career, was fun to watch.
Q: At what point during the season do you think you know what you have in your football team, in your experience?
A: I think it varies really, I really think it varies from team-to-team, year-to-year. I know Coach [Bill] Belichick talks about November, is when you finally know what you got. I think that’s fair, I think generally speaking that’s an accurate statement for a lot of us, a lot of teams. When you watch with our roster, there’s some additions every week, taking a look with try-outs at some different guys, always trying to improve. Then, knowing our current players, what do they do well, how do they handle different situations. The more we’re around each other the more you get a feel for each other. It’s like no different than your family, you have a new child, and the more they grow the more you’re around them and get to know them, their personalities, their strengths, their weaknesses. That’s about how I see it.
Q: What do you think you’ll learn about your team on Sunday?
A: That’s a good question, I think that we’ll see how we travel, how we go on the road. We’ve been through a lot of things over the course of the last couple of years, and then all the way through from spring, to training camp, to preseason, we’ve been through some experiences, we’ve been through and had to adapt to some things. The practice over here, our first practice in the stadium, with the rain we had to adapt. I’m confident in the resiliency of this football team, you saw that last week, the mental toughness of this football team. We get into it in the fourth quarter in a close game, and I thought they put together a real solid fourth quarter. You learn a little bit more every week. I believe in this football team, I’m confident in these guys, they’ve got an ‘it’ factor that a lot of teams look for. I look forward to watching us continue to grow.
Q: Luke Kuechly compared Christian McCaffrey to LeSean McCoy, and with what you’ve seen on film, was that a fair comparison in what they’re able to do?
A: I think they’re all different, both of these guys are their own individuals, I try not to compare two players. LeSean is such a talented football player, very elusive, his success and his resume speak for itself. I think that’s a known commodity. McCaffrey, a very decorated player in his own right. We’ve got a lot of respect for him, we know what he does offensively and on special teams, so it’s important that we know our stuff so we can put our best foot forward. But talented, talented football player. The thing to me, just from a respect standpoint is the instincts and how he handles himself, both on and off the field, a lot of class, and seems to be a great competitor. I’d compare him to Luke, I have a world of respect for Luke, and it seems like he handles himself with the same type of approach to life and the game, which is healthy.
Q: I know you want to play fast all the time, when you get a guy like McCaffrey who, in the open field, can really make guys miss, do you have to kind of slow play it sometimes to make sure that you are fundamentally sound, and how do you compromise that with trying to play fast all the time?
A: Angles, it’s fundamentals, it gets back to our genesis of fundamentals and making sure we’re doing fundamentals over scheme. We play good solid fundamental football, we take the right angles, we tackle well, and that’s not only on defense but special teams as well, he’s a great player.