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What He Said: Sean McDermott on playoff possibilities, Patriots and injuries

Opening Statement: Okay good afternoon. We’ll go ahead and get started.

Q: Can you give an update on E.J. Gaines please?

A: Yes, [he’s] still in evaluation. We won’t know anymore, right now until a couple days from now. Maybe, a little bit more tomorrow.

Q: How much time, if any, do you spend on one-bazillion playoff scenarios that are out there? It’s mind blowing, I can’t deal with it, I don’t know about you?

A: I spend very little. I’ll say this - I’m proud of the fact that our guys have earned the right to be in that conversation, and I’m happy for our fans. For what we have to do to continue to grow and improve, we have to focus on what’s in front of us, and that’s us getting better as a team, and then the New England Patriots also.

Q: So, you’re not spending a whole lot of time [on], if this happens this could happen – how to wiggle through all the talk and movement?

A: We’ll know enough to make sure we’re equipped going into the game with the information we need, in order to make the decisions that may come up during our game. Other than that, just in my experience of being around the playoffs like I’ve been, the important thing is to stay focused on ourselves.

Q: You say you’ve been involved, and guys like Jordan Poyer have said they’ve never been involved in a run like this, meaningful games this late – because of your experience and some of the other guys, what is your message to them in how to handle these next two weeks?

A: Well just what I said, it’s to stay focused on us, and us getting better as a team. It’s fun to be in those conversations. That’s a credit to our guys and how hard they’ve worked. They’ve earned that, so I want them to enjoy that part too. That said, making sure we’re focused on the task at hand.

Q: Is there an update on Nathan [Peterman] yet? Did anything change with his status?

A: He should be out of the concussion protocol and clear for practice this week.

Q: Can you just comment on the job that Ryan Davis and Eddie Yarbrough have done since Shaq Lawson went out?

A: They’ve both done a really good job. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen an increased intensity in their play. It starts in practice and you’ve seen that on the game field also. Their production, I believe, has been up. The last couple weeks in particular, they’ve really picked it up. That’s true of our whole team, when guys have gone down, other guys have stepped in, stepped up and [have] done a good job. I’m proud of the way those two have played.

Q: Davis in particular said he had a conversation with you, and I think Leslie [Frazier], a few weeks back about doing just that. Yesterday, he has a sack that forces a field goal, had a tackle for a loss – he was kind of a rotational guy but he’s been able to make more of his opportunities. What’s been the key there, why has that happened?

A: Well, that’s probably a better question for him, specifically. Overall, like I said, I’ve seen an increased intensity in his approach. That sack he made in the red zone yesterday was big for us, to force a field goal. I think the red zone defense early on was big for us. Our offensive performance in the red zone, on the other side was also big. Ryan and Eddie are two valuable parts of our team and they’ve done a good job.

Q: Everybody knows how long this drought has been, it’s a conversation every year. Do you feel the weight of that at all as a coach? Do the players feel that? Most of them weren’t here two years ago or three years ago, let alone 17 years.

A: Well I meant what I said when I signed my name on the dotted line, that I own that. Even though I wasn’t here, I feel that. I would want nothing more for this organization and these fans, to experience that in our first year. That’s sincerely how I feel about it.

Q: Do you need to make a decision, you think, on Kelvin [Benjamin] just because it looked like he was hampered? I’m not quite sure how much he was able to give you in that game, it looked like he was almost like a decoy. Do you have to make a decision this week on maybe not going with him, and going to somebody that’s healthy?

A: Well, we’ll see. The good part is a week ago, he had a little bit of a setback in the game, with going down in the game. This week, we didn’t have that come up. We feel like we’re building off of what happened in the game, as opposed to trying to come back from a little bit of a setback like he had in the Colts game with banging his knee a little bit there. We’ll get a better feel as the week moves forward.

Q: The defense had a lot of negative plays – as far as eight tackles for loss, a couple sacks. What was the difference maybe this week than the past, being able to get some pressure and make plays behind the line of scrimmage?

A: Well part of that, it always starts up front, is the pressure from the four-down, the four-man rush so that you don’t have to pressure all the time with five or six [guys]. Getting the pressure with the four-down and four-man rush was important for us, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that throughout the game. There were times where it should have been better, but overall, those guys were playing with a lot of intensity up front. I know it was mentioned earlier, with Ryan Davis and Eddie…I thought Lorenzo Alexander played a nice game as well as some of the other guys up front.

Q: In terms of different playoff scenarios and that sort of thing, do you ever draw back to the 2014 season? In Carolina, you guys made the playoffs at 7-8-1, a lot of different scenarios probably going on in that situation. You guys won four straight at the end of the year, is there anything you can draw [or] a learning experience from that year?

A: Well, yeah, I draw on a lot of my experiences around the NFL. I’ve been fortunate enough to be in this league a long time, and have been fortunate enough to be on a number of playoff teams and two teams that went to the Super Bowl. You learn from every different experience, every different year. You just build off of those experiences and try and use those to impart knowledge on our team moving forward. No two years are exactly the same - there are some overlapping similarities between years. I have a number of guys on my staff that have also been through the playoffs and into Super Bowls, and [have] won Super Bowls also. That’s valuable experience for us, and again, the knowledge we can share with our players.

Q: Sean, how much more of an understanding of the drought and the way that this city and fans - how much more of an understanding do you have of it now as opposed to, when you said, you took the job, when you signed and said you’re taking on this role?

A: There’s no substitute for experience, just like in any job. I see the passion of this fan base and living here now with my family, I know what it would mean. I see it in the players who have been here, I see it down deep in them and what it means to them. I feel that, like I said before and there’s nothing more I would want in our first year than to give them that. That’s why we’ve got a lot of work to do and that’s why we go hard every day. We get in early, we stay late, and put in the time to earn the right to win every week. This week will be no different.

Q: You mentioned that you learned and you draw from these experiences. What have you learned from that seven, eight months’ season? Is it just keeping slugging it out? Specifically, if you can.

A: Yeah, I mean it’s similar to the overall perspective of the NFL that every week you have to bring your A-game. Every week, you have to stay on top of your game and the season kind of takes different twists and turns. You’ve heard me say it before, it’s a test of how long a group of people can hang together and [how long] a building can hang together through the highs and lows of the season - through injury, through adversity, the different forms of adversity that every team goes through. That’s what the NFL is - it’s a test of who can hang together the longest to get themselves in. The good part about us is we continue to build, continue to get better every week and grow. These are valuable experiences for our young players to go through and great things when you watch our draft picks on the field yesterday getting valuable experience in a game like that. All good stuff.

Q: After the game, Jordan Poyer was pretty emotional when asked about maybe giving Kyle Williams a chance to get into the postseason. He’s been through it all here, he’s kind of become the poster-child of this drought. Would there be something extra, maybe special, getting Kyle that opportunity?

A: Yup. Yeah, 100 percent. I think our players feel that, I feel it. If you’re in this building, you better feel it because that guy’s put a lot into this building and this organization, this community. There’s nothing more I would like than to give that to Kyle.

Q: Coach, did you have to reign your players in at all yesterday? It got a little chippy out there. It might’ve even led to a couple of those unsportsmanlike [penalties]. Was there any point you had to kind of refocus them to reign them in with everything that was going on?

A: There was. I wasn’t happy about that. We’ve got to handle ourselves better than those situations. Discipline is a big part of being a good football team, a consistent football team. I was not happy at all about what went on and we need to do a better job moving forward with that.

Q: On that note, there’s going to be a lot of talk this week about the play a couple weeks ago between [Rob] Gronkowski and Tre’Davious [White]. How do you have to make sure that doesn’t permeate and become a distraction in your locker room?

A: Well, we’ve got too much work to do and this is too good of an opponent for us to: A, talk about it or B, even think about it. The weeks go by too fast for us to do anything other than focus on what we’ve got to do and the New England Patriots.

Q: Sean, going back to Kyle for a second, you mentioned the more you’re in this job, the more you kind of learn about the drought and what that has meant to this community. How much does having a guy like Kyle around, because there was questions about whether he would come back. How much does having a guy like him around add even more perspective just given how long he’s put up with the losing?

A: Well, he does a phenomenal job, along with a lot of the other guys, the guys who have been here [like] Eric Wood and a number of other guys. The player-driven leadership is so important to me because, as a head coach, it’s easy for me to, ‘Hey, pound on the podium, pound on the podium, this is what we’ve got to do’. To have those caliber and quality of people and players in our locker room to help connect my message to the locker room is huge for me as a head coach.

Q: How did Tyrod [Taylor] come through the game, physically?

A: He was fine.

Q: Did Preston Brown forfeit his position on the hands team?

A: [laughs] You know what, I’ll say this - Preston Brown is a good football player. I know he wants that play back, and I’ve got a lot of confidence in Preston. We look at everything every week and I’m glad it turned out the way it did, that we got the interception at the end of the game to seal it. I was proud of Tre’Davious for going down this time, so, growth, right?

Q: Is he basically there though, Preston, to be like kind of a blocker-shield? He’s not really supposed to be fielding the ball–

A: That’s right. A lot of the kicks we see go up in the air and we need a wall, so that’s really Preston’s role. That said though, he’s tasked with the responsibility also when the ball’s kicked, coming to field it. He came up a little bit short yesterday, but that’s something we’ll work on and look at moving forward.

Q: You can run down all the scenarios you want, but a very simple one for the playoffs [is] you guys win your last two, chances are [that] you’re going to the playoffs. Do you embrace the fact that the New England Patriots in Foxborough are on the schedule next in regards to that?

A: We embrace whoever the NFL puts on our schedule the next week. That’s what we’re tasked to do, and that’s what we’ll do this week.

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