Head coach Sean McDermott
Opening Statement: Couple things this morning before we get started. Injury wise, injury updates, the following players will not practice starting with Cordy Glenn still with the foot and ankle. Kyle Williams will not practice, as well as Lorenzo Alexander due to scheduled rest days. Marcell Dareus will be limited in practice, and Jerel Worthy is out of the concussion protocol at this time. Finally, congratulations to Stephen Hauschka, the AFC special teams player of the week, for a tremendous effort in last week’s game against Denver.
Q: Could you go into a little bit more detail on the Dareus situation? Obviously, he is making some progress. Is there a good chance he is going to play Sunday or do you have no idea?
A: We are day-to-day right now. He put in a lot of time over the weekend and the last two days here, those being Monday and Tuesday. We feel like we are headed in the right direction but right now it remains day-to-day.
Q: Physically, it is one thing with him. Are you convinced that mentally and emotionally he is on board here?
A: I am. Like I said the other day, we have to continue to improve. That is true of our football team, we have to take that growth mindset approach to growing every day. That starts with myself and goes right through the entire team and Marcell being one of those guys. We have a lot of work to do, anxious to get back on the practice field today. This is a big challenge for us going down into their stadium and a new stadium. We look forward to that challenge. This is a team led by a very good football coach and Dan Quinn, with a dynamic offense and a defense that is playing extremely fast, and a special teams unit that is doing the same. This will be a big challenge for us, and one we look forward to.
Q: You have history with Dan Quinn. Obviously, it goes way back to his first year as a coach, a [defensive] line coach at William and Mary, you were a safety there. Start with those recollections and broaden that out, if you could, to the relationship you guys have developed through the years.
A: When I was a player at William and Mary, Dan was a graduate assistant coach and what happens in college is every year, or every two years, sometimes every three, you get a new flock of graduate assistants that come in even though the head coach remains the same. Dan was one of those coaches that just had it. He had a great way with players. Having that great way with players, he still had a tough minded approach to the game, which being a defensive player and then defensive coach, and head coach now, I really appreciated. He was close enough with the players but not too close in terms of the relationships he was able to form. He had something, even then when I was in college and it’s been fun to watch his career. I pulled out a program over the summer as I was moving and going through boxes. There was a program, a game program, from William and Mary versus VMI, Virginia Military Institute, and on that cover was Dan Quinn and Mike Tomlin on the same staff. It was pretty neat to see and to remember those days.
Q: You competed against each other obviously at the NFL level as well, and as a stepping on point to what you said, have you taken some of his qualities maybe into the mix of your development as a coach and b, what has it been like to face him coordinator to coach or coordinator to coordinator?
A: He has been a tremendous help me to, he really has. Like a number of other coaches around the league and coaches in other sports as well, he has been open using his first couple of years to helping me in my first year, whether it has been just dealing with what happens in your first year, what to expect. I know going as far as they went last year with the Super Bowl run that they were on, and the experiences that came from that experience and sharing some of those valuable lessons he learned along the way. I know his wife has worked with my wife in sharing some of those things that happened on the other end of things, with respect to the wives building community, building family. That has been very valuable and much appreciated on my part.
Q: This is a trend this year because you’re playing the NFC South, so you have some familiarities with teams. Once again, you have Atlanta, you know how good this offense is, specifically Julio Jones. Would it be fair to say that it was a good thing that you saw Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders last week to get you going and ready for a guy like Julio, who nobody can cover, how do you go about trying to stop that guy?
A: Certainly, he’s a tremendous football player, tremendous athlete. The weapons that they have on this offense, starting with the quarterback, with Matt Ryan and what he’s done over the course of his career. Being in the NFC South like I was, I had a chance to go up against, or coach against Matt, I should say, and watch his career really take off. That’s been fun to watch, a young player develop, certainly an elite quarterback. Then, with Julio the same way. Watching him come into the league, had some production early in his career, had a few injuries here and there, and then to really take off the last year or two, been very impressed by that. Now, with the weapons of [Devonta] Freeman, [Mohamed] Sanu, [Tevin] Coleman, all these guys, with [Taylor] Gabriel now, they have multiple weapons to defend. What we have to do is start at ground zero and make sure we are who we are, and that means a fundamentally sound defense in everything we do. We have to play extremely sound defense, team defense, and make sure we’re communicating. I don’t know if you’re ever going to take a player of that caliber away, but you have to know they’re going to make some plays and we have to make plays on our end as well. We look forward to it and it’ll be a big week from a standpoint of us spending time in the film room, knowing what they do best, and earning the right to win.
Q: Matt had a lot of success against your defense last season in both games, against the Panthers, what did you learn from that and how much can you apply that to this current defense now?
A: Matt’s had a lot of success over the course of his career. We’ve had some games where we had the upper hand, if you go back and look at those also. And we had some last year where he had the upper hand. I think it’s been a good battle over the years. He’s a highly competitive guy, as are we and our football team, and we would expect the same. They had an impressive performance last year in all that they did as a team, and what they did in their Super Bowl run. Like I said before, we have a big challenge in front of us, it’s one we look forward to.
Q: Kyle Williams, on Monday, credited you for bringing unity to the locker room and having players speak before practice or at training camp, and he credited that effect for everybody getting to know each other, you never envisioned what was going to happen last weekend when you instituted this, but how much do you think that helped this team get through this past weekend and the obstacles mentally and physically?
A: I appreciate what Kyle said, and I recognize that. I’m going to take myself out of the equation for a second, if I could, and I’m going to put the focus and attention on how our players handled the situation, in terms of they were able to stay focused. I’ve seen them continue to do that, with respect to the game and the last couple of days. I’m very appreciative of that. I think that it really speaks to a team. Being able to communicate, certainly like I’ve talked about, is important. Being able to communicate on the field is important, and that’s really where our focus needs to be this week as we move forward, and focus on our team and the Atlanta Falcons. I really appreciate that about our guys, they care about one another, they respect one another, and we’re able to communicate about things that are important.
Q: Since you’ve had [Patrick] DiMarco on the team, during the recruiting process or just in the time that he’s been here, did you ever shoot the bull about how he felt losing that Super Bowl game?
A: We’ve touched the subject a little bit, a little bit of common ground. Two years ago I was in a similar position, the game was slightly different, albeit like all games are. Last year, with his experience, there’s a lot we can learn from those experiences, of being in big games and what we learn from those situations. We’ve touched the subject, with respect to that as well, ‘hey, what would you have done differently, in terms of as a team, what was said.’ Those are things we can use for our team moving forward, and add to what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, because the best way is to learn from other people’s situations. That’s what we try and do here.
Q: In your career, is there anything that has been close to the disappointment of losing the Super Bowl?
A: That’s a tough question just in terms of, that’s what you work for. It’s what we work for. That’s the biggest game and the championship game for us in this business. Certainly disappointing. I’ve been in two and it’s what you work for. It takes time for that to go away but you try and learn from it, like we do [with] every situation, and try and come out better because of it, and that’s the growth mindset you have to have.
Q: Sean, do you have any connection to [Matt] Ryan, going back to [Philadelphia]? I don’t know if there’s anything back there. His family is obviously pretty common with his father and you’re, you know, just geographically.
A: Not really. Just, like, the respect I talked about earlier. I do know the high school that he attended and know some guys that went there that I was friends with. I’m a little bit older, obviously, so we didn’t cross paths that way. But [he] certainly had a great, tremendous high school career. Then, what he did at [Boston College]. I was fortunate enough to be around a pretty good player from BC the last six years, or five years, in Carolina in Luke Kuechly. Luke would share some stories and I know they have a good relationship as well. It just really starts from, I think, a position of mutual respect, at least on my end, and what he’s been able to do and the type of competitor he is.
Q: You talked about their running game before, how they have a lot of weapons in the running game. Do you see teams, because there is so much emphasis on stopping Matt Ryan, as great as he is, and Julio Jones, as great as he is, that the running game can get lost a little bit in terms of attention, maybe preparation, maybe emphasis, whatever?
A: Right. If this is where you’re going, you’ve got Julio Jones, you’ve got Matt Ryan, and you’ve got these other weapons from a receiving standpoint. But if you ignore the running game, then here comes [Devonta] Freeman [and Tevin] Coleman. That’s what I was mentioning earlier, they’re multi-faceted with plenty of weapons and then their offensive line, with what [Alex] Mack has been able to do the last, I believe it’s been two years there. He does a tremendous job inside for their offensive line as well. Like I said, this is a good offense. The stats speak for themselves year after year. It’s a good football team, a well-coached football team.
Q: This will be the third week in a row where there’s sort of a direct coaching connection with the opponent. Carolina [with your connections], and Denver with Rick [Dennison], and this one with you and Dan Quinn. How much does that end up, since you’ve been through this process now the past two weeks, factor into the preparation of how much is devoted to specific – ‘okay, I know this about these guys because I know these guys well.’
A: At the end of the day, the players are going to play the game. Dan and I certainly have a relationship [and are] certainly close. That said, I’ve never really coached with Coach Quinn. We’re focused on playing the game the best way we know how and I’m sure he would say the same thing for his team. We’re just going out there to continue to improve for our football team and try and get better every day, and that’s really what we’re focused on, is that process that was mentioned earlier – not by me [but by John Wawrow].
Q: Sean, two games probably isn’t a trend here but it has been two games where the running game hasn’t worked, especially with LeSean [McCoy]. How concerning is it that this is a team that’s predicated on running the ball, and how concerning is it after two games of not great running production?
A: Yeah, it’s certainly something we have to continue to work on, like a long list of other things we do. We have to get better. We’ve got to go back to work on it, which is why we practice today in a few minutes here and I look forward to watching us improve. That’s one of the areas that we need to improve on, no doubt about it.
Q: Have any players asked you or spoken to you about continuing large-scale protests this week? Do you see that continuing?
A: You know what, I don’t have a crystal ball and we just, obviously [with] yesterday being the day off and today starting early with our morning meetings, we haven’t gotten around [to talking] at this point other than talking football. That communication will continue, but really our focus right now is on this football team and the Atlanta Falcons.
* * *
Running back LeSean McCoy
Q: Jim Kelly said you guys texted each other on Monday night and said all was good between you. What’s your version of that?
A: Hey, like I texted him, he said some things to the media that he probably could’ve said to me, but [it’s] his opinion. It doesn’t really matter to me. I like Jim Kelly. He texted me and I just told him, ‘hey, you’re human. People, they have their own opinions. What you said, you don’t have to apologize for it. I don’t think you’re wrong. That’s how you felt, I understand. You’re a human.’ I told him, exactly, I said, ‘my respect for you hasn’t changed. It’s still very high.’ He’s a hell of a player and I respect him and I love him and even the relationship we had so far. It didn’t affect me at all. Opinions about good or bad or football-wise or outside of football, it wouldn’t matter to me as far as him as a person because that’s his opinion. He’s a human being.
Q: LeSean, everyone else that did kneel, at least on your team, they knelt and they just kind of kept it at that. You did do a little bit more with the exercising and stretching. Why did you choose to do it that way?
A: Well, I was extremely hurt, to be honest. Because at first, everybody has their own opinions, like I talked about. People believe in different things. They stand up for whatever they want to stand up for. That’s their right. Some of the words that the President used, it just rubbed me the wrong way. It really did. I was upset and I was frustrated and that’s the way I wanted to express myself at the game. I took a knee, I started stretching, I was angry. You know, I was hurt. Just that, like I said before after the game, someone like the President and being our leader of this country where we, in front of millions and millions and millions of people, they look at America and see the type of words and things he’s saying about us. It just got to me. It really did. Every week will be different. Like Tyrod [Taylor] talked about earlier, how the team, how we talk on a council as a group because at the end of the day, we play football. We’re a football team. We talk about being together as a country, and so that’s the same thing with this team. We want to be together. It’s okay to express your feelings a different way, but I don’t want to make it where every week we’re addressing this [or] every practice we’re addressing this, taking away from our job. Because on that field, man, it’s go. Guys on defense are trying to hit us hard and trying to be physical with us, so we want to make sure we’re mentally focused on the job at hand. When we play together, we’re focused.
Q: If you had to do it over again, would you do it differently?
A: Nah. Nope. Same way. Do it the same way.
Q: What do you plan on doing this Sunday?
A: I haven’t thought about that. Like I said before, that was last week. I think there’s a lot of, if you see around the whole NFL, [players] kind of took the President’s words and really expressed themselves. Some teams didn’t even come out for the national anthem. Guys were just extremely hurt, like myself. This week, we really want to get back to just playing football and focus in and I guess we’ll go over that with the council and see with the team, how we feel together and where we’ll go for the future.
Q: Is there any level, going back to football, is there any level of – after you guys lost when you couldn’t produce in Carolina, you guys won when you couldn’t produce against Denver up to your potential. How do you now balance your approach, knowing that teams are still stacking up against you and you’re 1-1 when you get under, you know, whatever you get, twenty or thirty yards?
A: We won the game and that’s important. [They] just take the main weapon and we still win, that’s a good thing. Shows the types of players we have on the offense. Tyrod really exploded and took over the game. Them guys on defense, they get paid a lot of money to stop the running game and stop me so we’ll figure it out. We’ll figure it out. They’re a fast defense, [a] fast group, but whatever way we have to win, we got to win. It’s frustrating for me just to not [go out] there and contribute like I want to. But if I have to be a decoy and win games, it got to happen. It has to happen.
Q: What’s your relationship, in the offense between you and Patrick [DiMarco], as far as how he’s setting up lead blocks, in this whole wide-zone scheme, give a perspective on what it looks like for you?
A: Pat is good, he’s familiar with the offense, he was in Atlanta with a similar offense. He sees the holes and sees the blocking scheme like a running back, so that helps me out. A lot of times we’re on the same page, rarely we’re [kind of] not, and I’m happy to have him. He’s a really good fullback and I can see why they paid him as much they did.
Q: You asked Tyrod [Taylor] jokingly about getting you involved in the passing game, but is it a joke, do you want to be even more involved?
A: Well we’re getting me involved. The defense knows that, sometimes you’ll see I’ll get two defenders on me in certain situations. Rico [Coach Rick Dennison] is trying to find me ways to get the ball in open space, to give me one-on-one opportunities in the passing game. I was joking with him, but I’m always in his ear in the huddle, ‘hey, I’m going to beat him, hey he can’t cover me,’ even when I’m covered, I’ll just tell him that.
Q: How would you describe the way this team feels in the locker room or you guys together today, compared to say, last Thursday before everything happened?
A: I’m not sure of that because we just got back. We had our two days off kind of, so guys [were] in and out. As the week goes on, we’ll see how things work out. But one thing I can say is it’s not the main topic. I noticed the first thing in the meetings was more, ‘dang, how can we beat the Falcons. We can exploit them in this package, we can do this in that,’ so it’s been more football. I think last week, it just happened so everybody kind of like ‘wow,’ was kind of like wowed about it. Amazed. This week, I’m not sure exactly, but it’s been more football [than politics].
Q: Trump has a history of running his mouth in various platforms. Are you going to feel the need to respond every time? He’s doubled down a few times.
A: He’s a character, man, so I’m not sure. We’ll see.
Q: How do you feel about Devonta Freeman now being the highest paid running back?
A: That’s how it works. Young guys, they always come up and, I remember that stage trying to jump over the next guy. I mean, he’s a good back. He’s really, really good. He’s a baller so I respect him. He’s 24, 25? So he should jump up. He should’ve gotten Drew Rosenhaus and he would’ve jumped over me way, way more. But no, I’m just messing around. I’m just messing around. No, but I’m happy for him. I talked to him in the offseason and I told him, I said, ‘hey. That offense is a good offense, obviously with Matt [Ryan] and Julio [Jones], but you’re a big role, and they know that so they got to pay you,’ and I’m a big fan of his game, for sure.
Q: Two rough games and the Falcons misspelled your name in their media packet.
A: Dang. You can just Google me, man. I’m everywhere.
* * *
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor
Q: As you look at what this Falcon defense percentage is, each week is a different challenge. What is your initial thought on what opportunity they may offer to exploit because maybe not them, but do you see more opportunities for things to open up?
A: Each week is going to be different in our approach and our attack. We see some things as a team that we feel we can go out there and take advantage of, that will play out. It is a talented group that we are going against. They have been together, playing at a high level for a good while now. It boils down again to execution on the road. We have to be on our A game to come out on top.
Q: Last week was the one week kneel to protest, do you think moving forward you as a team might continue to do something? Has it been discussed for this week?
A: We haven’t had that conversation. One thing I am not sure, across the league, is how it will play out this week. We have to continue to keep talking about it. One thing we are going to continue to do here, is to continue to support the players. Like I said last week after the game, we believe in love and equality so if guys want to continue to keep doing that we are going to support them. We can’t let that take away from our focus of this week’s game. We want to be proactive versus reactive. Last week was a special moment because the president had said something two days before a game but we can’t let that take away our focus this week from the football game. We have to go out there and this is a challenge for us.
Q: What level of reaction was there to what Jim Kelly said on Instagram, on the radio? What reaction was there in the locker room.
A: It was mixed feelings in the locker room. I know Jerry spoke out about it. It boils down to, Shady has his right to his own opinion as well as Jim Kelly. As a team, and I know the players in this locker room, strive to promote good and we are going to continue to keep doing that. We can’t let those comments or what is going on outside our locker room, what is being said, affect our focus. We have to move forward and be dialing in each week on the game plan. The other issues and stuff will take care of itself. As a team, we have to continue to keep having that conversation.
Q: How important for you was it to be so efficient and not turn the ball over and play that type of game, as opposed to what happened the week earlier where the offense could not get going? How important was that in the progress of moving the offense forward?
A: Taking care of the football is definitely a big factor in this league. If you are looking to cross the league with the week, takeaways are something big that I think determines the game. I think that was something that gave us the opportunity in the Carolina game, we were able to still take care of the ball and give ourselves a chance at the end. Ultimately, we didn’t come away with the goal that we wanted to, but it played a key factor even this past weekend too as far as taking care of the football and being efficient. Just staying on the field, our big thing is third down conversions. It starts with first and second down for us and keeping it in manageable situations.
Q: The difference was in Carolina you didn’t turn the ball over but there was an efficiency of the offense. Do you think maybe you guys, the offense, learned something after and got validated by what happened against Denver?
A: Definitely something to learn from. Being better on first and second down is what helped us when it comes to third down efficiency. We didn’t put ourselves in bad situations and we were able to stay ahead of the chains. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but we were able to stay ahead of the chains for the most part. There is a lot to learn from this past week’s game compared to the week before.
Q: Knowing how explosive this week’s Falcon offense is, does that create some extra sense of urgency from you, and the rest of the offense to try to take your level up more notches?
A: Yes, each week we want to try to be better than the week before. This is a high-powered offense, a bunch of talented players on that side of the ball, and a bunch of talented players on the defensive side of the ball. It is a challenge, and opportunity for us to show who we are as a team and how we can be better than the week before. We are working hard this week and taking that challenge head on.
Q: The Falcons have yet to even trail for a single second this year, they pretty much make things one dimensional and teams have to play catch up. How important is it for you guys to make sure you don’t let that happen so you can get the running game going so you don’t get caught one dimensional?
A: It is very important, especially on the offense side of the ball, we did well. We managed to clock, we managed certain situations, then we try to keep that offense off the field as much as possible. They have a high-powered offense and it’s our job to go out there and put up points on the offense side of the ball.
Q: Do you feel the passing game, Tyrod, last week you put it up on tape to make future defenses, Atlanta in this case, worry about more than just that we have to stop LeSean [McCoy]?
A: Yes, and like I said, each week is going to be different. Last week, we were able to complete a couple of different things, medium, short, and long range balls. We’re going to continue growing as an offense and we’re going to continue to keep doing that. We have an identity, of course, getting Shady going in the running game is also always going to be one of our priorities, and we have to do a better job of that.
Q: Cordy [Glenn] continues to be out with injury, what have you seen from Dion Dawkins and his role the first couple weeks of the season?
A: He’s competing. It was a challenge for him last week, and it’s been a challenge for him each and every week that he’s play, but he’s competing, he’s keeping a positive attitude, and he’s going out there and putting out good film. Like I said, it’s not going to be perfect, but the main thing from my end is that I get the ball out fast; that helps him, especially with those guys that he’s going to be playing against week in and week out. He’s in a good space, he’s playing well. [He’s] just got to continue building the confidence.
Q: Where is the balance for you, and maybe if you want to speak as a leader of this team in terms of team context of, you have to still play 13 more football games, but this story line of what’s going on with the national anthem and the demonstrations: it’s obviously affected you guys as a team, you’re having meetings about it. Where do you find the balance of, ‘I’m a football player and I have to get ready for this game, but I also am a human being and I have these beliefs and these other thoughts that are going on with the NFL right now’?
A: It’s a hard, it’s a hard balance I would say, but I would say, as long as we’re in this building, going through meetings on the field, it’s all about football. Like I said, whatever’s going on outside of the locker room, we really can’t let that take away from our focus. There’s always going to be world issues, and yes as humans we want to attack those issues, but we also have a job to do. It has to be a balance, I think, as long as the conversation is healthy and open throughout the organization and everyone can get on the same page. It’s not anything that’s going to get solved overnight; it’s going to continue to keep going, and hopefully we can get a change in it, but at the same time, we have to focus on football as well too.
Q: Last question, you said that the Atlanta Falcons [have] a great defense, they’re fast, but you have a very explosive running back. How can you use him in the passing game? Or look for him in the passing game?
A: Are you talking about Shady, or?
A: Of course we’ve got to get Shady going in the passing game, in the running game as well too. He’s one of our big time playmakers, and the more he gets the ball in his hands, the more special on offense he’ll be.
Q: Micah Hyde, I know he’s new and I know he’s on the other side of the ball, can you tell me what your relationship is like with him? You’re still kind of getting to know him.
A: Yes, he’s a leader. Like you said, we’re getting to know each other day in and day out as we progress along the season. He’s a talented player, he has confidence. He’s basically like the quarterback on defense in the secondary, as far as getting everybody in the right place. He’s done a great job of controlling that defense, along with other guys on that defense as leaders too. Like I said, he has a special skill level, and he plays like it each week.
Q: Do you guys ever talk to each other about, when he looks at it from his perspective, you from yours, say, ‘hey, here’s what I’m looking at’ and you the same?
A: Definitely, especially those conversations probably a lot more in training camp, just trying to get certain looks, what they’re looking for certain packages, from certain formations, and just trying to learn from each other and pick each other’s brain. Ultimately, I can get better from him and he can get better from me.
Q: We were talking about how you handled it, the balance. There are teams that are doing it differently, some teams are trying to block [it] out totally, and say ‘we’re not even going to think about it, we’re not going to talk about it’. Other teams, I think the Bills are probably a little bit more out there. How do you find the comfort-zone as to where you fall on that spectrum as things move forward as to how you’re going to handle this?
A: It’s a work in progress. As a leadership council, it’s about 12 guys, roughly about 12 guys in that group, and Coach [McDermott] just tries to get a feel from guys in the locker room. Like I said, there hasn’t been too much conversation about it. Guys have been in and out of the building the past two days with off days, kind of like a half work day. From what I hear in the locker room, guy’s focus is on trying to win a game and we have to pour our energy into that. Whenever Coach decides it’s right to have that conversation about the social issues and other worldly issues, then we’ll have that conversation. It’s going to be a work in progress. You don’t want it to take away from your focus on football as well, but we’ve got to have the conversation as well.
* * *
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander
Q: I know [Tevin] Coleman’s kind of their change of pace guy. I know [Devonta] Freeman runs with more power, but is there any difference between them? Are they both fast?
A: Yea, they’re both talented. They both have their own unique ability that allows them to stride well in this offense. Freeman may make one extra more cut than Coleman will, but they’re both dangerous, they both can catch out of the back field. We’re going to be match up against them a lot, obviously they’re going to try to exploit me probably or Ramon [Humber] out there with them in space. [We’re] just going to have to be ready to break on the ball and tackle well this week, and really just want to make Matt Ryan uncomfortable when we get the opportunity.
Q: When you know [that] there’s an offense that is this prolific and they’re going to get theres, how do you communicate that to young guys on your side of the ball so they don’t get discouraged and know they’re going to get a couple plays too?
A: Well, I think last week is a great example of it. We have kind of already been through it. It’s not like we completely destroyed Denver last week, they got some big plays and got some yardage, but we were able to make them kick field goals at times, had two big turnovers. So I think it’s continue to play and I think the play that Tre [Tre’Davious White] made is indicative of all of that. You may get beat, or we may have some miscommunication, the guy is wide open and catches the ball, but if you finish a play, knock it out, it doesn’t count, it’s a long foul ball. We have to continue to have that mindset, continue to learn from past games, and just moving forward, understand [that] certain guys in this league, it’s hard to stop. They’re going to get the yards, we just continue to grind and trust the process and eventually we’ll overcome [it] as a unit.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge that that offense presents? Is it Matt Ryan, is it Julio [Jones]?
A: It’s all of them together. I don’t think one player in this league ever destroys you. It’s a team concept and a team game. What they’re able to do in the running game right now, averaging five yards, and that the play action is deadly. You have to come up, and like I said, it leaves Julio to roam back as he wheels it and catching balls over the middle of the field, some deep shots, so it’s kind of the combination. That’s why we have to be so focused on 1st and 2nd down to get them in some 3rd and longs to where there’s really no play action threat, you’re not worried about it, so our defensive line can pin the ears back and try and get after Matt Ryan a little bit.
Q: Lorenzo, what do you think the next step is in terms of handling the national anthem with this team?
A: We just want to continue to move forward and have positive dialogue. Whether or not guys will continue to kneel, I don’t know. I don’t plan on kneeling anymore. Mine was more out of response to President Trump. I do know guys want to try and create some type of town forum, where we get people in the community together and just start having actual dialogue versus just protesting, but having something behind it kind of help create change and actually happen.
* * *
Defensive Tackle Marcell Dareus
Q: What do you think about your chances this week to play?
A: I’m feeling good. We’re going to take it day by day, see how things go.
Q: How did it feel today? I mean, this is kind of your first action in a little bit, in terms of football stuff.
A: Yeah, I was just trying to get used to the braces I have now and just kind of get my feet under me. Just trying to check the soreness. Just keep moving forward.
Q: Is there a particular motion or thing you do that bothers you a little bit more than others? I mean, is it a straightforward thing or a side-to-side thing?
A: It’s an all-around thing [laughs].
Q: How anxious are you to jump back in here with the way the defense is playing? I imagine you want to get back out there sooner rather than later to be a part of this thing.
A: I love football. I mean, this is the time of the year I’ve known my whole life just to be grinding. Just to be out there with these guys, finishing out the year the best way possible. It hurts every snap I’m not there. I’m trying my best to be out there as fast as possible.
Q: It looked like it was the first series of the game [against Carolina] when you got hurt. Do you know what happened, specifically?
A: It kind of happened so quick. I kind of slipped to a knee and as I was getting up, someone fell on my calf area and kind of gave me a pretty scary sprain so –
Q: So are you feeling lucky it wasn’t worse than it was?
A: Yeah. I mean, I’m just happy I’m just so tough. I’m just a tough-ass. I’m still managing the comeback, playing a little bit more, playing in the goal line where I’m critically needed, so I just throw some weight around. Hey, we’re working it out.
* * *
DE Jerry Hughes
Q: It is like night and day between this year and last year?
A: Yeah absolutely and I love it. Those guys come down and they are not afraid to jump in the box and get their heads dirty. They are scraping in the run game with us, I have nothing but respect for safeties, corners, and anybody on the football field who is willing to just throw it out there on the line.
Q: It seems like last year, going back to a couple years, you have kind of found your voice as an NFL player for the things you are standing up for. Is that always the way you have been? It just seems like a bit more recently in your career?
A: That is just the way I was raised. My parents have always taught me to speak from my mind. First and foremost, to be respectful to everyone and just get that respect back.
Q: Have you found a lot of positive feedback and reinforcement from around the league, friends, family, things like that?
A: Yes, friends, family, guys from the league giving me support. It’s been cool.
Q: Do you think this team has come together even more through Saturday night and Sunday through what happened?
A: Yeah, I felt like it was great for everybody to say what they needed to say, to get it off their chest, and understand where everyone is coming from. At the same time, respect their decision. We are buddies, we’re friends, we’re Americans. We are here to win football games and do our best to be better human beings.
* * *
WR Jordan Matthews
Q: You and Tyrod had limited time going into the season. Now you have three games under your belt. Do you feel like you have kind of hit that groove yet, just you and him personally?
A: I think personally we already had a little bit. Tyrod handles his job so no matter what receivers are out there, he is going to make sure he has the right spot, he is going to go through reads and try to make the best play for the team. He is a smart guy. A lot of these quarterbacks who are good on their feet like him, I don’t think they play extremely smart. Guys to his pedigree, the Russell Wilsons, the other guys like him, even Carson [Wentz], those guys who can run, they are smart, know when to get down and when to utilize their arm. Usually when Tyrod is running, he is looking downfield too to make a pass to make a play with his arm. When you have a guy like that it is not hard to get into a groove. My biggest thing is, am I in the places that I need to be and making sure I am doing what he needs me to do out there. As far as a rhythm, I feel like we were able to expedite that process a little bit with just the way we both approach the game.
Q: Do you feel like you guys, as a passing game, put enough out there on tape where defense, whether it is this week or future weeks are saying, we have to do more than just stop Shady?
A: You are talking about one of the best running backs, probably ever. Even the way he approaches the game, the way he plays, he is changing the game already. If you see any kid running around with no ball security, Shady is probably his role model. If you are a defensive coach, let’s just be really honest, you are going in there and you are saying, we have to make sure we stop the run. It’s just no secret.
Q: Is there is something else for them to think about now though?
A: I mean I can say that all I want to. At the same time, if we were playing Madden and you pick the deals, I am trying to stop 25 too. No matter how much you put on film, he is one of the best running backs of all time to play. I think as a receiver group, as the passing game, we should take that personally and go out there and try and do well on the pass game too. I just use it as motivation.
Q: Do you like watching guys like you, guys that play your position, and play it the way he does?
A: I usually watch people to learn. I never watch too much Julio [Jones] because I never looked like that. A couple guys, him and Calvin Johnson I watch sparingly. He is an amazing athlete and a great receiver just the way he gets those breaks. A lot of tall receivers have a hard time when it comes to getting in and out of the cuts. Most of the time they are running D balls, on targets, on third down targets, in the first down game, deep come backs, he has a full repertoire. I think most people would consider him one of the best, if not the best, receivers in the game as far as talent and overall physical ability. I think he has more balance than probably anybody at the position. He is a fun guy to watch, but him, Larry [Fitzgerald], Jordy Nelson, I love watching all those guys.
* * *
S Jordan Poyer
Q: The Falcons are reigning NFC Champions, you’re probably not thinking about making a statement, just worried about winning the game, still there is something to be said about playing a high-profile team like this, hanging with them and potentially beating them, something to be said for that right?
A: We’re excited for the opportunity, we’re excited to go out there and play another football game, on the road, hostile environment in their new stadium. They’re going to be amped up in the end. It’s going to be exciting for us to go out there, and see the jump we can get from week three to week four against a really good offense, a really good football team. We’re preparing hard, just like each and every week. Preparing hard, and we understand what we have to do to get a victory.
Q: It’s a super talented group as you well know, and you know that nobody is going to completely shut down a high-powered attack like that, what’s the mindset that you guys have to have as a defense knowing you’re not going to completely shut them down and zero them out?
A: Like you said, they have a lot of talent on that side of the football. Coming in, we know we have to be physical with these guys and we have to stop the run. [We need to be] able to stop the run, make them one-dimensional, and prevent the big plays. Obviously, those guys get paid too, Julio Jones is a freak of an athlete, he can catch the ball, he can run after the catch. We have to prevent the big plays, and tackle when plays are there to be made. You have to make tackles, you can’t miss tackles and we have to take the ball away.
Q: If you look at the tape, and certainly, you guys have looked at it longer than we have, you can probably count on one hand as a unit how many missed tackles, do you think fundamentally you guys have been pretty solid through these first few games?
A: Yeah, they preach hard on tackling, since OTAs to training camp to now when we’re practicing without full pads on. It’s always get to the ball, get into positions where you’re able to shoot your hands through and make a tackle. It’s never not coached, we’re always out there continuing. Like I said, if we’re in pads or if we’re not we’re always out there continuing to work on tackling because it’s a huge aspect in this game. I think if we continue to work and continue to stress the tackling, it’s going to continue to show up on Sundays.
Q: There are a handful of quarterbacks around this league that are considered to be the elite of the elite, Matt Ryan is probably one of them, what is it about him that you see on tape that makes you go man that guy can do it all?
A: He’s a veteran quarterback, he’s been in the league, I can’t remember how many years, but he’s been in the league a long time. He feels comfortable in his offense, he’s able to get to the line of scrimmage and make some checks that he wants based off of what he sees. He’s a veteran quarterback, [we] respect the guy, he’s a hell of a football player, hell of a quarterback, a guy I grew up watching. He does a lot of good things, it’s not just one thing he does well over another thing, he manages that offense well, he can throw the deep ball, he can throw the crossers, and he manages it well. It’s going to be a test for us.
* * *
CB Tre’Davious White
Q: When you watch tape, seeing Julio [Jones], [Mohamed] Sanu, [Taylor] Gabriel, what are some of the thoughts? And of course, how Matt Ryan can throw it, what thoughts cross your mind?
A: We’ve got a tough challenge ahead of us this week, man. It’s an exciting offense. I said it last week, Julio’s a guy I watched when I was in high school, so to be able to go against him, it’s going to be a big time deal and something that I’ve waited for. I feel like, as a team, we’re going to be ready for it, we’re going to compete and prepare well.
Q: It’s a zone based scheme that you guys play, so there are those opportunities that teams get to move it, but your plan is not to break while bending somewhat. What’s the mindset there in your zone?
A: We’ve got to just try to limit the big plays, just try and stay over the top, make sure no guys get behind us. The offense is not patient, so they want to sort of take that shot, so we can continue to just tackle guys before they get YAC yards, or even cover guys over the top when they’re not getting big plays, those 20 yard chunks, so they’ll pretty much just get frustrated. We feel like, if we just keep guys in front of us, we’ve got a shot.
Q: How much has been talked about, going back into the offseason, about how big tackling is for the secondary. You guys have done a great job, like you said, keeping guys in front of you, but the tackling, fundamental one on one, how much of that is preached every day?
A: Guys are going to make us tackle, you know. You’ve got to take pride, it’s an attitude. I feel like the guys we’ve got on the defensive back field have a great attitude about coming down and hitting, and we take pride in that.
Q: They’re not small receivers, well Taylor’s not the biggest guy, but I’m just saying generally they play a, well I’m saying they’re physical, right?
A: Those guys come in and crack you and you won’t see it, and you might be out for a couple weeks. We’ve got to make sure we communicate in the back end.
Q: Do you match physical with physical? Is that how you have to play?
A: You’ve got to let them know that you’re there too. Like I said, Atlanta, their offense, they’ve got so many weapons, you’ve got to try and account for every last one of them. Those guys are going to make some plays, it’s just a testament of us of just being calm and just limiting those big plays. If we limit the big plays, I feel like we’ve got a shot in every contest we have.
* * *
C Eric Wood
Q: How important will it be to get the running game back on track after a couple weeks that is has been down a little bit?
A: Very important. When you play an offense like this, you have to help your defense out a little bit. Our defense has been playing incredible but against an offense like this we need to establish a ground game. We need to do a better job than we have been doing the past couple of weeks. And they have a good run defense, it is going to be no easy task.
Q: Are you encouraged at all that you guys won a game against Denver without really running the ball that well?
A: Yeah, I am thrilled with the win. I thought out play action game was excellent which kind of shows when they are going to dedicate themselves to stop the run like they did and to be that sound, ultimately, we could make some plays through the air. So credit to Tyrod and the receivers for getting that done.
Q: LeSean talked about, if I am a decoy and we win that’s fine. We all thought this offense was, we are going to go as LeSean goes, and that was not the case on Sunday.
A: No, we made some plays through the air and LeSean can do it a lot of ways. He had a bunch of catches, and him being in the game effects so much whether he has the ball in his hands or not.
Q: What needs to happen to get the running game back on track?
A: I wish it was just a very simple answer. I would say we need to block better. We need to do a better job opening holes. We have to do a great job of extending drives. Even last game some of our better runs happened after our first down and we get in a little bit of a rhythm, but there is a lot that goes into it.