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09 September 2015

Week 1 Conference Call Transcripts: vs. Tennessee (9/13/15)

HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT
 
(On how Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota and Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston will be linked together throughout their careers)
“It sure seems that way, doesn’t it? Do I get it? Yeah, I get it. They were both very successful college quarterbacks, both won the Heisman, both performed at a high level in big games, so, regardless of where they were drafted, there’s a lot of attention that comes with that. And then when you go [first overall] and [second overall], that even creates more attention. So I certainly get it. They’re both good football players. I know in doing our work on these guys, we liked both of them. It is definitely going to create a lot of interest about this game.”
 
(On any debate within the organization on whether Mariota would be an immediate starter)
“When I was asked at the league meetings, because obviously [media] knew where we were with the draft pick, if we were considering taking a quarterback, I said, ‘Yeah, if you draft a quarterback with that pick, you expect him to be your starter.’ And that’s been our consistent message since he was drafted. We expected him to be our starter and nothing’s changed. He’s been that way since day one. We’ve had no issues. As far as quarterbacks that I’ve done that with before, rookies, the only other rookie that I had that was picked this high was Ben Roethlisberger and he did OK the first year he started.”
 
(On the importance of a fast start when your team has many young players in key positions)
“When you’ve got this many young players and an opener on the road, first game of the season, there are a lot of things that you have to overcome. So how they handle it is going to be important to us going forward. There’s no other way around it [other than] to say they’ve got to grow up quickly. We went into Kansas City and experienced what it’s like on the road in a tough place to play against a good football team, so hopefully that can help prepare them for this. We’ll see. That’s one of the things that is so exciting about this game is seeing how they react and how they respond.”
 
(On how Mariota has adjusted to playing under center)
“After we did our work on him, I didn’t feel like it was going to be an issue. Just from watching him take snaps and really, the time that we spent with him, as far as how he processed information and how he was able to handle it and some of the things that he had to do in [Oregon’s] offense. But to say it would have gone as smoothly as it has, probably didn’t expect that. He’s done a good job. He’s worked very hard at it. He looks comfortable under the center and has made the transition quite well. So we’ll see. It’s been preseason, so we’ll see how he handles the regular season, but he’s worked very hard and we’ve certainly been excited by what we’ve seen.”
 
(On whether the heat and humidity in Tampa will be a concern for Sunday)
“I think it’s always a concern when you come down there, especially this time of year. But we’ve had a hot training camp; we’ve had some days where it was very humid. I don’t know that we can actually simulate what it’s like there, but at least we’ve gotten some work in pads. You just try to make your team aware of that. You try to get them in the best shape you possibly can, because we know how difficult [the heat] is. Hopefully we’ll get lucky and it won’t be as hot as it normally is, but certainly we expect it to be tough.”
 
(On rookie right tackle Jeremiah Poutasi and whether he is expected to start against Tampa Bay)
“He’s a young guy who is very talented athletically, that has done some good things for us and done some rookie things for us. He has been listed as our starter, but we feel good because we’ve got another guy that’s been with us before that has played that position as well. We are planning on [Poutasi] being in there when we get down there unless something changes, which I don’t expect it to.”
 
(On game planning specifically against rookies to exploit weaknesses)
“I think maybe if it’s a certain position that you feel like you can do that, you may have some things you try to do to make it more difficult for them, but I don’t necessarily know that’s the case with Tampa. You’re going to play with young players when you go through a season like we did, like Tampa did, then a lot of times there are changes and you’re playing with young players and you have to go through some of the growing pains that come with that. But that’s why we’ve given a lot of our guys reps. I don’t know specifically that you can game plan or try to create matchups as easily as a lot of people think. I think you try to play your scheme and do it well and sometimes, hopefully, you’ll get a matchup that’s favorable for you.”
 
(On Tampa Bay Head Coach Lovie Smith)
“My experience with Coach Smith is what a good football coach he is. Whenever we play his teams, they’re always well-coached and they play hard. So I have a lot of respect for him and have enjoyed facing him over the years because it’s always a good matchup. I’m sure that he’ll do a good job there.”
 
(On the relationship between a head coach and a quarterback)
“I think that the quarterback is naturally a leader or naturally looked at that way. It’s a very important position and regardless of whether you call the plays or not, you have a lot of interaction with that player – as you do with a lot of your other players who are leaders on your football team. Because of so many things that are involved with that position, with the quarterback position and what they have to do, it is important to have a relationship because part of what you’re trying to get done starts with taking the snap, calling the play in the huddle. So you want to have that. It is, for lack of a better word, a conduit to the team in a lot of ways.”
 
(On Tennessee Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau and game planning against a rookie quarterback in Jameis Winston)
“Well, I know he’s excited to have our rookie quarterback, he’s said that to me a number of times. I don’t know that he gets into that too much. I think Coach LeBeau loves the game and he’s made a lot of great contributions to this game and I think what he’s really focused on is trying to get our defense to play better than what we played last year. He’s excited about some of the additions that we’ve made and we feel good about this group going forward.”
 
(On the danger of a young quarterback getting hit early in his career and whether a coach has to think about that)
“I don’t think you consciously think about that. We’re trying to protect our quarterback, so as far as – I don’t know specifically what quarterbacks that you’re talking about, but I know a lot of times young quarterbacks, when they don’t have success early, it’s difficult, just because most of the time the reason they’re on your team is because they have had success. And that’s never easy. Just dealing with that part of it is very difficult. As far as the getting hit part of it, I really couldn’t speak to that.”
 
(On the Tennessee defensive backfield without cornerback Jason McCourty)
“We have some young guys that did well in camp, and that makes us feel a lot more comfortable. Coty Sensenbaugh has a really good camp. We signed Perrish Cox in free agency – he also had a good camp. And Blidi Wreh-Wilson, he got nicked a little bit, but was doing well beforehand. So we feel good about the group and we’re expecting them to do a good job for us. We know we’re going to get Jason back very soon, if not this week – there’s a slim chance. But, certainly, we feel good about that group.”
 
(On players in Tampa Bay’s defense who have stood out on film)
“I’ll tell you what stands out for me. Obviously you’ve got [Gerald] McCoy – he’s a really good football player – and, certainly, [Lavonte] David. They stand out. They’ve been good players for the team. But I think the way [the defense] plays – they play fast and they move around. I’ve been impressed with how they play as a unit. So they certainly present issues for you when you’re facing them. And that’s characteristic of what I’ve seen of Coach Smith’s defenses before. They’ve got a good young linebacker. Kwon [Alexander] has flashed on the tape, too. They’ve got some good players, we certainly are aware of that.”
 
QUARTERBACK MARCUS MARIOTA
 
(On if he is more nervous or anxious to get the game underway)
“I’m definitely more anxious. This is an exciting time. We’ve worked really hard this offseason and we’re excited just to go out there on the field and show what we can do.”
 
(On he and Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston – the top two picks in the NFL Draft – facing each other in the season opener)
“I think people will continue to debate ‘One or Two,’ if it’s really important to Jameis and I. I think, for us, we’re just really focused on doing our best with our teams and focused on what we have to take care of. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, we just want to focus on what our objectives are as an offense and move forward.”
 
(On if his biggest adjustment has been getting used to the speed of defensive linemen in the NFL)
“I would agree with that. I think the speed of the game is a lot different in college. You’ve got to be able to think quickly on your feet, get the ball out – defenses are moving quick, there are great athletes all over the place and they’ll make plays on the ball. You’ve just got to be prepared in that standpoint and do your best to adjust to that.”
 
(On if he focused more on staying in the pocket during the preseason)
“I think just during the preseason, there weren’t opportunities for me to run. There was a lot more down-the-field throwing, try to stay [in] the pocket and stuff like that. I just try to play instinctively – I just try to play my game. Whatever is asked of me – if there are opportunities to throw down the field, I do my best to do that. If there are times to take off, I’ll do that as well. It just kind of depends on the game and what’s asked of me.”
 
(On how much he wanted to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft and play for Tampa Bay)
“Obviously, growing up, you want to be picked in the NFL Draft and I think for me, I was focused on getting myself ready. It didn’t matter who the team was, I was going to do my best to prepare myself for this next step. I’m so excited to be here with the Titans and I look forward to the season.”
 
(On what he has seen from the Tampa Bay defense on film)
“Once the final preseason game was done, my head kind of went straight into Tampa Bay. The defense, they’ve got a great group up front. They’ve gotten pressure with those four up front and I think on the back end, they’ve got guys that can really make plays. Their linebackers are downhill guys that are going to force the run. They’ve got a good group. For us, we’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to be prepared and do our best to try and execute our offense.”
 
(On taking snaps under center and transitioning from a spread offense in college)
“It was different. I was very fortunate to get in a situation where my teammates and these coaches have done a great job of helping my transition, whether it was kind of going over the plays, helping me with speaking the language of the offense. There were a lot of other people involved and I’m very thankful for them.”
 
(On what gives him confidence as he enters his first career start)
“I think just the amount of hard work that each individual on this team has put in. You kind of look across the board, a lot of guys have made incredible sacrifices throughout this offseason and that’s exciting to be a part of. For me, I have the utmost confidence in every single guy in that locker room and I’m excited to go out there and play with them.”
 
(On his personal interactions with Winston prior to the NFL Draft)
“We actually worked out together in San Diego, before the pre-combine process and before the draft, so I got to know him a little bit. He was one of those guys that was a hard-working guy, did everything that was asked of him and really kind of pushed everyone around him.”
 
(On being a leader of the team as a rookie)
“I think, for myself, I really just kind of continue to be the guy that I’ve always been. I don’t change my personality, just kind of be the same person ever since high school, ever since college. I think the guys in the locker room respect that. For me, it’s just kind of building confidence in them that I’m going to work hard and be the same consistent guy every single day.”
 
(On building a rapport with the Tennessee receivers and if anyone has stood out)
“The group of receivers that we have here is a great bunch. Those guys are versatile in every postion and they can do whatever is asked of them. It’s very exciting for me to have targets like Justin Hunter and DGB [Dorial Green-Beckham] that can go up and get the ball, as well as guys inside like Harry [Douglas] and Kendall [Wright] that can kind of create mismatches inside. Those guys are a great bunch.  I think they’re going to make plays for us. As we go forward, we’ll continue to build the chemistry.”
 
(On being linked with Winston for the rest of each of their careers)
“That’s for you guys, that’s your opinion. I learned a long time ago not to compare myself to anyone else and my Dad always said just to focus on what you’re doing, find ways that you can get better and the rest will take care of itself. I think Jameis is a great player, I think he’ll have a great career, but for us, I think we’re just going to focus on what we’ve got to do within our teams and do our best to be the best players that we can be.”
 
(On if he has stayed in touch with Philadelphia Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly, Mariota’s former college coach)
“The last time I actually talked to Coach Kelly was on Draft day. He just kind of wished me congratulations. After that, I haven’t heard from him. I’m sure he’s a busy guy. He’s done a lot for me and it doesn’t matter whether or not he talks to me before the game on Sunday, I know he’s very supportive of every Duck player that’s played for him and all the players that play for him now.”
 
(On how he has been received by the city of Nashville)
“The community of Nashville has been incredible. They’ve really kind of welcomed my family and myself with open arms. I can’t stress that enough, how thankful we are for that. Moving forward, I’ll do my best to give back as much as I can to this community, because they’ve really been welcoming and the hospitality has been great.”

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