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14 December 2016

Transcript: Dallas Cowboys Conference Calls with Tampa Bay Media (12/14/16)

(On Buccaneers defense and specifically cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III)
“Well, I think they’re a good defense across the board. They have good defensive linemen, they have active linebackers and they’re obviously good in the secondary, had a number of cover guys that have been very productive. In terms of Hargreaves, is a guy that I think everybody really liked coming out of school and it doesn’t surprise us one bit that he is playing as well as he is. He’s a mature guy for being a rookie and he has all the skills that you need to play corner at a high level.”
(On the biggest difference he sees in the Buccaneers team this year versus last season)
“Hard for me to answer that. Obviously, great amount of respect for those guys. Defensively, they’re playing very well. They’re fast, they’re active, they make a lot of plays on the ball. And offensively, their quarterback really continues to grow and has done a really nice job for them. They have a willingness to run the football and have success in doing that. Obviously, the playmaker outside; number 13 [wide receiver Mike Evans] can make a ton of plays for them and a guy that they look to. So, challenging in different ways and they’re certainly playing the right way and had a lot of success here in the last month or so.”
(On how well equipped quarterback Dak Prescott is to move on after last week’s loss)
“I think it’s probably his greatest strength is the poise, the composure and the maturity that he plays with. He’s handled a lot of different situations this year up to this point as a rookie quarterback and whether it’s success or adversity in a game or from week to week, he just seems to continue to focus on what he needs to focus on and strives to get better and do what he needs to do to help our team win. So, there’s no question in our minds that he’s going to continue to do that going forward after our game last week.”
(On Dallas Owner/President/General Manager Jerry Jones’ comments on a ‘legitimate discussion at quarterback’)
“We’re just focused on our guys and our preparation for the Tampa game. I have great respect for this team that we’re playing and we play our best and get locked in on each day and what we need to do to get better as a team. Dak has obviously done a lot of good things for us this year. We’ve won 11 out of the 13 games he started and we’re focusing on him being our starting quarterback and everyone else playing the roles that they play. Everybody’s got to be ready and again, it’ll be a big challenge for us Sunday night.”
(On what he saw early on in quarterback Dak Prescott that made him comfortable moving forward with him as the starting quarterback throughout the season)
“Well, he really just at every turn, did whatever we asked him to do and that goes all the way back to rookie minicamp. We’d gotten so many great reports from his coaches at Mississippi State and from the coaching staff that worked with him at the Senior Bowl and also just our experiences with him prior to the draft, so, everything was positive since he’s been here. He’s been in a number of different situations that could offset a young rookie quarterback trying to learn a new offense and always worked very hard, prepared, ready for any opportunity. At different times, he got different opportunities as the offseason and the preseason went along. Obviously, played a lot because you know, [quarterback] when Tony [Romo] was coming back from an injury and he took advantage of those opportunities and ultimately Tony got hurt in our third preseason game against Seattle, he went in and again, was ready, prepared and did his job and took advantage of that opportunity as well. So, he’s a focused guy. He’s a mature game, plays with great poise and composure and he understands the importance of being ready for any opportunity, taking advantage of them as they’ve come throughout the year.”
(On quarterback Jameis Winston handling a big game such as this upcoming game on Sunday Night Football)
“He certainly played well and he was a highly regarded guy coming out of school and did so much for Florida State and that program. So, he’s played in this kind of environment before. We certainly are impressed with him and he seems to be getting better and better every week.”
(On success running the ball in short yardage situations)
“Well, it’s such an important part of the game, being able to convert third downs and being able to win in short yardage and goal line. We pride ourselves on being a physical football team, that’s how we built our team. It starts with those guys up front and they do a great job controlling the line of scrimmage, but it’s more than just the offensive line. It’s the tight ends, it’s the fullback, it’s certainly the running back and the receivers as well. So, those are important situations and they’re not easy situations, but I think our guys embrace the challenge. They’ve done a nice job converting those up to this point this year.”
(On coaches Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia and Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli)
“Well, they’ve done a great job and I was fortunate to be around those guys for a short period of time at the end of my playing career and they made such a positive impression on me. Both of those guys, their track records speak for themselves, but having a chance to be around them day by day, I saw them up close about how they went about their business and kinds of coaches and people they were. So, we had a chance to bring them here to Dallas and certainly we’re excited to do that and Rod has just done a fantastic job with our defense. He’s done a really good job just day by day establishing standards that we want to live by and holding everybody accountable to those standards. That’s really what his career has been all about, want to play a certain way and get the kind of guys who want to play that way. We’re certainly getting better and better on defense every week. Really the same thing for Coach Bisaccia. He’s our assistant head coach. I have a tremendous amount of faith and trust in him in the job he’s done with our special teams unit, but also just the impact he has on our football team. He’s an outstanding coach. Players love to play for him. He coaches them hard, he’s well respected and each of those guys have done such a great job for us up to this point.”
(On quarterback Jameis Winston)
“I definitely admire the work he does, just being a great leader. Being able to spend some time with him, we created a little friendship there at the [Peyton] Manning Camp and he’s an intelligent guy. He’s a guy that knows the game of football, who’s pretty smart and quick in thinking. But, yeah, I admire what he does.”
(On how he stays focused regardless of outside noise)
“I just really don’t pay attention to it. I don’t give it any thought. Playing for an organization like this, there’s always going to be talk and it just makes you better. It kind of allows that chip on my shoulder to grow, but for the most part, I really don’t pay attention to it. I just worry about going in there and doing my job and right now, that’s being the starting quarterback and helping my team win each and every week.”
(On whether jumping right into the fire at the beginning of the season helps him now handle negative outside noise)
“Yeah, I’ve been through a lot off the field in my life that’s allowed me to deal with controversy or negative issues or whatever you want to call it. But, definitely, since the time I’ve been drafted, there’s been doubts and there’s been all kind of talk and controversy from the time I was drafted to the time [quarterback]Tony [Romo] went down. So, yeah, it’s really never affected me. If it does anything, it allows me to allow that chip on my shoulder to grow and become a better player.”
(On his relationship with former Buccaneer Derrick Brooks)
“Yeah, I met with Derrick in the offseason in the training. We share a marketing agent, me and Derrick do, so we’re able to connect there and went and spent some time down there with him. We went to a little convention that he spoke at and it was a privilege for me just to be there and hear him talk about education and all the things that are important off the field that he allowed the platform of being on the field to help him to do those things. He’s a great man and idol that I definitely can learn from off the field.”
(On greatest thing he has taken away from knowing Brooks)
“Pretty much what I just said of using this game of football not really to be our whole life, but to use it as a platform to affect others off the field when it comes to education, when it comes to giving back to charity, when it comes to just being a person, being an everyday guy. How to use this platform of being an NFL player in this spotlight and transition that to helping everyday people to do better things.”
(On handling being the starting quarterback as a rookie)
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint one situation, there’s been a bunch, but overall, it’s just knowing how blessed I am just to be able to do something that I love and not taking anything for granted. It’s really just the overall thing that all the situations in my life allowed me to understand is take every day and use it to make yourself better as a player and a person and I know in doing that, I will get better.”
(On whether he expected to win 11 of the last 12 games when coming in as the starting quarterback)
“I can’t say I was planning on coming in and had my mind that we’re going to go on a huge winning streak, but I definitely have all the confidence in myself and the players in this organization and my coaches that we’re going to have a lot of success. Like I’ve said, I have a lot of confidence in me and I have high standards for myself. It doesn’t surprise me by any means of what we’re doing and coming off of a loss, it just makes us get sharper and get better and refocus.”
(On running back Ezekiel Elliott)
“It’s fabulous having that running game, having an offensive line like we do, gets credit obviously, but I don’t know if they can ever get as much credit as they’re worth. Then, with Zeke, just running behind them and finding all the holes and being great in the passing game as well. It’s allowed me to just go out there and make my job easier in some sort. It’s great and just being able to go through everything with a fellow rookie in the backfield, going through everything for the first time on and off the field, it’s been fun. Zeke’s a great friend and he’s like a brother, so it’s fun just having him around all the time.”
(On how the team has responded to the loss last week)
“It’s allowed us, like I said, just to sharpen up and refocus. You never say a loss is good. You never say you want to lose or anything like that, especially to an individual team. But, we can use this as motivation and get back refocused and do all the things that we were doing to begin with. We’ve kind of slacked a little bit on offense these last two weeks, so just to sharpen back up and get more focused and do all the things we need to do that got us winning in the first place.”
(On how the Senior Bowl this past January helped prepare him for the situation he is in now)
“Yeah, I’m so thankful to be able to go to the Senior Bowl. That was my first time in 11-on-11 going under center, so that was big for me just to get that exposure, to get those reps, to work with that. Like you said, just to get in front of all NFL coaches and most importantly, to see a playbook. You want to say all the time that your playbook in college compares to the NFL, but you really don’t know until you’re given that playbook at the Senior Bowl. It was great just to be able to see the comparisons, to be able to learn and see the plays and practice those long plays. Everything I did benefitted me and plays a big part in my early success in this league.”
(On the Buccaneers defense)
“Yeah, they’re fast. I think that is one word that just describes their defense is that they’re fast. They’re fast on the edges, they’re fast at linebacker, they’re fast in the secondary. They are a good defense. They are a great defense. They’re always around the ball. I don’t know if I’ve seen a team all season long just react to the ball as they do and get as many guys around the ball and that’s where their turnovers come. They all have high motors and they rally to the ball, they’re getting their hands on passes that are in the air and being able to tip them up and pick them. Then they’ve got guys that I’ve said, getting to the ball and pulling it out. Creates for a good defense. But, we’re excited for the challenge here this Sunday.”
(On whether he ever went against cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III during college)
“No, I never played Florida.”

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