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11 November 2015

Week 10 Conference Call Transcripts: vs. Dallas Cowboys (11/15/15)

(On Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and his progress this season)
“Oh, I think he’s done a good job. They’ve done a good job with him. They’re a balanced offensive attack and he looks comfortable playing in their system. He’s made a number of plays for them and done some things, both with his feet and throwing the football, that have helped them compete and win some games. We’ve certainly been impressed by him.”
(On former Dallas cornerback Sterling Moore, now with Tampa Bay)
“Sterling is a good player and he played a lot of snaps for us last year. Unfortunately, in free agency sometimes guys have an opportunity to go elsewhere that might be a better fit for them and that’s what happened with Sterling. But he played a lot of snaps in our defense last year and was a productive player for us. He did a good job defending the run, making some plays – he’s a good tackler. And then, similarly, just covering guys. The play that he made the other day to start the game, not unlike things we’ve seen from him in the past. He’s got some savvy about him and a good eye for the ball and just seems to be around it a lot and makes a lot of plays to help the team win.”
(On the difficulty of losing six consecutive games)
“Obviously we’re all committed to winning, and when that doesn’t happen it’s disappointing for everybody. But it’s a competitive league and we know that. One of the things we have to do as coaches is really focus on how we’re playing more than the result of the games. Obviously we all want the results, we all want to win. That’s why we do this. But I think you get better when you’re focused on how you’re doing things and ways that you can get better, and that’s what we’ve tried to do as a coaching staff with our football team. We’ve done a lot of good things, we’ve been close in a lot of ball games – a couple overtime games, a couple last drive of the game finishes for us [where] we didn’t get the job done. We have to keep looking at that as to how we can do that. But I love the spirit of our team, I love the fight and the relentless nature of our team. We just have to do the things that winning teams do. We’ve done that in the past and we’re confident that we can get that done in the future.”
(On the friendship between Dallas Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli and Tampa Bay Head Coach Lovie Smith and the similarities between the two teams’ defenses)
“They’re great friends and, like you said, they worked together for a long time, so I think they’ve probably had really positive influences on each other. And, philosophically, I think they’re real similar in what they think is important to winning football games and having your defense contribute to that. You do see some similarities in scheme, fronts, coverages, pressures, all that, but I think it’s more of a philosophical similarity. You can play a lot of different kinds of defenses, but, again, it’s how you play the defense and I think because of their time together, I think they emphasize a lot of the same kinds of things. We’re certainly impressed by what Tampa’s doing on defense.”
(On whether there has been any dissent on the team regarding playing with defensive end Greg Hardy)
“Our team is really focused on what each individual guy has to do as a player and a coach. That’s really what we try to keep our attention on and keep our focus on. I think our team has done a good job over the course of the season just simply doing that. And we’ll continue to do that and everybody will focus on making sure we get our job done and trust the guy next to them to get their jobs done.”
(On Dallas owner Jerry Jones)
“Our owner is committed to winning and always has been. I was fortunate to be a player here for eight years and I’ve been an assistant coach and now the head coach. All of the guys I’ve played with and the coaches I’ve coached with during my time here appreciate the commitment that Jerry Jones has to winning. It’s up to us to do our part as players and coaches to get the job done. At times we’ve done a good job of that and other times we haven’t, and that’s what we really have to focus on. But we appreciate his support and his desire to win football games.”
(On the progress of Dallas quarterback Matt Cassel)
“I think he’s definitely progressing. Matt’s somebody we picked up about a month ago after Tony [Romo] got hurt. He spent a little time just trying to get himself acclimated to our system and what we ask our quarterbacks to do and I think if you look at his progression over the last three weeks, you certainly see a guy getting more and more comfortable with what we’re doing and how our offense works against the defenses that we’re seeing. You love his leadership, you love his competitive spirit – we saw that from the outset. But I do think he’s more able to execute at a high level the more he’s around us and the more he’s running these plays and maybe most importantly, running these plays with the guys on our football team and understanding the nuances and little details that are so critical to executing at a high level.”
(On handling issues that have come up with Hardy since his signing with the team)
“We just address issues when they come up and we take care of things in-house. We’ve had to do that a couple times with Greg, we’ve had to do it with other players on our team. That’s just the way we handle it. We address the issue, we solve it and move on, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”
(On Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia, formerly a coach with Tampa Bay)
“I just think he’s a great football coach. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around. I realized that right away. I don’t know if you guys remember, but I played with the Bucs my last year playing in 2004. I signed with them in the offseason and was on the roster for about a month in the regular season. I wasn’t there for 10 minutes and I said to myself, ‘Wow, who is this guy coaching the special teams?’ Just the way he coaches in the classroom, on the field, the way he interacts with his players, the way he’s demanding of his players, the way he gets the most out of his players, the way he teaches – I just think he has a special way. He’s been such an asset to our staff. He’s our assistant head coach. He’s a great resource for me, just in terms of seeing the football team and all the different aspects of it, beyond just his role as a special teams coach. He’s been such an asset to us and made us so much better. He’s one of the best people I’ve met in football and certainly one of the best coaches I’ve met in football. We’re lucky to have him. To answer your question about if he’s ready to be a head coach, absolutely. He could be a head coach at the NFL level and certainly at the college level and anybody who had the opportunity to play for him, I think would really benefit from the entire experience.”
(On Dallas’ rookie class)
“Byron Jones was a guy that we took in the first round. We had a pick late in the first round and he was available to us and was somebody we really liked for a lot of different reasons – great character guy, great person, was a four-year starter at Connecticut, played two years at safety and two years of corner, and has all the intangible qualities you’re looking for, all the physical qualities you’re looking for, position flexibility. We just thought he was going to be a good player for us to pick at that spot and he’s come in and done a lot of really good things for us right from the start. Initially as a special teams guy and a spot player on defense, but now he’s playing both safety and nickel and he’s all over special teams, so he’s a guy we think has a real chance to be a good player for us. Randy Gregory was someone we took at the bottom of the second round, a guy that we thought was one of the best pass rushers in the draft and he was available to us at that point. We just felt like we could bring him into our team and hopefully help him to grow as a person and as a player. Unfortunately, he’s been banged up this year. He hurt his ankle early on after getting off to a pretty good start and he’s just working his way back here the last couple weeks. And the other player, L.C. Collins [La’el Collins], is a player we actually got in college free agency because of a situation he had leading up to the draft. But a guy we regarded very highly as an offensive lineman coming out of LSU. We were fortunate enough to be able to sign him after the draft because of some circumstances he was going through leading up to the draft and he’s done a really nice job for us. Initially, getting acclimated to what we’re asking him to do from a technique standpoint and getting comfortable with our scheme, but he’s learned quickly and over the last couple, three weeks, he’s been a starter for us at that left guard position and he’s getting better and better and better.
(On the importance of toughness at the tight end position)
“I think it’s critical. I think we’re really seeing the position evolve since I came into the NFL, and probably even before that, where you’re seeing it’s a mismatch and really being used around the league. So I think it’s a position that can cause matchups in your favor week-in and week-out, and I think a big part of that is just the consistency and being able to play. That’s something I try to do and I know a lot of guys around the league have done, and part of it is just staying healthy and the luck that comes with that and the other part of it is kind of having the toughness to be able to mentally get through it.”
(On Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and what he means to the team)
“I think it’s clear how valuable he is to our football team. This team has done a good job not using [Romo’s injury] as a crutch. We’ve lost six in a row since he’s gone down. We’ve been in a lot of those games - overtime, two of them - just haven’t been able to play four quarters and finish and execute the way we want to. He, though, I think is an elite quarterback, Tony. He’s played at a high level, he creates a lot, and is just a special player. I’ve been fortunate to play with him most of my career and we’re anxious to get him back, but our focus right now is just on Tampa and trying to get back in the hunt in our division.”
(On whether Dallas has changed its season goals given the first half of the season, or if the goals remain the same)
“The goals are the same. In this league, the margin is so small between winning and losing games. I mean, Tampa’s had that a lot. A lot of those games could go either way. So around the league, that’s kind of the way the games are working out and you’ve got to be able to find those ways and execute in those situations. When you look at us last year, what we were able to accomplish, in a lot of those similar games we just found ways to win them. We executed. The goals haven’t changed. We are fortunate to be in a division that the leader is 5-4. So we’re not out of that. Our focus right now, going into the second half of the season, is just simply let’s get one win. Let’s take it one week at a time. I think our team has kind of bought into that approach. It gives us a chance to get back into it. But we haven’t reassessed it and looked at it and said, ‘Hey, we’re playing for something else.’ We still feel like our goals are right in front of us. Our focus has been on let’s evaluate why we haven’t won those games and let’s correct it. Let’s get better and try to go get a win.”
(On the Tampa Bay defense)
“They’re a good defense. We get to practice against a similar defense in Coach [Rod] Marinelli and our defense, so that style of defense we’re familiar with. I think they play hard. They’re a good defense. They’re fast, they’re athletic and they get to the quarterback. It starts up front with [Gerald] McCoy and then they’ve got linebackers who can really run, so they’ve got a lot of confidence in that system. They create challenges because they know how to play it so well and Coach [Lovie] Smith has done such a good job implementing that defense and the success he’s had throughout his career as a coach. We have a lot of respect for them. I think the speed of which they play at is something that jumps out more than anything else.”
(On the fans’ reactions to Dallas’ current record)
“The standard is always really high here, and that’s a good thing. That’s the way you want it. I’m sure they’re frustrated and disappointed, as we all are when you see the season start out 2-0 and then you lose six in a row. We have had some injuries and things that come up, but this team, I think the greatest strength and the greatest trait we have - I think it starts with the entire organization at the top and then the coaching staff - is we really don’t make excuses. We go out there and I think last year is a great example. Teams kind of thought, ‘Oh, well, they’re kind of the 8-8 team, that’s what they are,’ and we came out and won the division and went 12-4. I’m sure [the fans] are frustrated and a little edgy, but we always say our standard and what we want to do is so much higher than anybody else as players. We understand that they expect wins and we want to deliver that.”
(On the importance of capitalizing on red-zone opportunities)
“It’s huge and I think when you watch them, they move the ball really well down the field. It’s hard when the field gets shortened and you get down in that area. But going back to the margin of wins, over 70 percent of the game in the fourth quarter are one drive, one score difference. So when you can have those [red zone] opportunities and you don’t come away with points or you don’t come away with touchdowns in a lot of cases, it’s the difference between losing and winning. So that’s critical. I think situational football is as detailed and as important right now as any time we’ve seen in the league, or my experience in the league, just because these games are so tight and you’ve got to be able to capitalize when you get down there. And it is hard. The field shrinks, teams are playing a little bit softer coverage and allowing you to run it and forcing you to make tough throws and trying to force you to settle for field goals. That’s the game. We’ve had our struggles in there, too. We finally did a better job last week capitalizing on some red zone touchdowns.”
(On how he reconciles being defensive end Greg Hardy’s teammate given his own personal ties to movements against domestic violence)
“There’s a point of it that you’re a teammate, right? So when a guy gets brought in here from the organization and they said we’re going to give a guy a second chance, and he’s gone through that process, I think as a teammate you have to kind of take on that same approach. Since Greg’s been here, he’s been great, and you kind of have to go off of your experience with any teammate, but this one in particular, go off of what you see and how he handles those situations. He’s worked hard, he’s been a good teammate, he’s done all the things – taking away what he brings to you on the football field; I’m just talking about as a teammate. My support in putting a stop to domestic violence is unwavering. That’s something that, as you said, in the E:60 it shows how important that is to me, that my family went through it. But I think it’s clear from that standpoint that that’s how you have to approach it as a teammate and in the locker room. So I don’t know if that answers your question all the way, but I just think that it’s clear that when that’s brought in and he’s gone through that process and your team says you’re going to give him a second chance, that’s what you have to do. As a teammate, that’s the approach, and I think Greg’s done a great job since he’s been here.”
(On Dallas’ offensive line)
“It’s been great for our team. You really look at how our football team’s evolved in the last four, five years, I think it starts with the identity of our offensive line. We’ve got guys that we’ve drafted high that have played really well. The best thing about them is they’re the hardest working group on our team – they stay after it. So when you have that, it does allow you to get out more, and, at the same time, probably more than that of a handful more catches, I think it is kind of a winning formula. We believed we were going to establish our identity through up front, and when you can do that, it kind of imposes yourself as a team on the opponent. So we try to run the football, those are the things we really lean on week-in and week-out, because of those guys up front and they do a really good job and work really hard. A good group of guys that are talented and have kind of been our strength and our identity as an offense.”

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