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02 December 2015

Week 13 Conference Call Transcripts: vs. Atlanta (12/6/15)

(On the current mood of the team)
“No doubt we’ve had a tough stretch, dark place, and for us it’s really about the ball. That’s when we’re at our best, when we’re ball-hawking defensively and getting it back and then owning it on offense. The times that we’ve done that, we’ve played well, and the times that we haven’t done that, it’s been hard on us. So the mindset for the team, it’s a really tight group and they’re anxious to get back out and play as you’d imagine a competitor would. The first game, we knew playing Tampa was going to be a good battle, tough down to the end, and, of course, not only down into the end, [but] into overtime. So we’re kind of expecting that same kind of fight, same kind of battle. Two teams that will be absolutely going for it. So we’re jacked to play and I know they are, too.”
(On the possible return of wide receiver Devin Hester and running back Devonta Freeman this week)
“So we know Freeman for sure, and that part is going to be good. He went through all the [concussion protocol] tests and everything, it’s good. He’s a factor. Not just in the run game, but out of the backfield, the screen, the passes, so he’s a guy that’s hard to deal with. And then with Dev, we’re going to really push it today and tomorrow and see where he’s at. For us to have his speed back there and the playmaking ability, not just on [special] teams but on offense as well, we’ll just have to see where it goes. He’s working like crazy to get it back and we’re going to work him pretty hard today and tomorrow and see where we end up.”
(On Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander)
“I knew him way back, honestly, going through the draft process. In fact, I went down to Baton Rouge to work him out and then I left there just so impressed. I had a sense for what the grit was, how hard he wanted to work, how hard he would go for it, so, for me, I was not surprised that he’s playing so well. You just kind of had a sense that here was a young guy that was absolutely going to go for it. When you put the tape on, that’s exactly what he’s doing. It’s always good to see a guy – I know from our standpoint, he played so well – but you just have a sense of what he can be. I think they’ve got themselves a really good linebacker in him, in his style, his attitude, the tackling, the ball-hawking. I think he’s on his way.”
(On Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston and the challenges he presents)
“It’s really cool when you see the young guys – it doesn’t even have to be a quarterback, because we have some young guys who are kind of coming into their own as well, and I think they have to go through those experiences and then as you get toward the middle-end, starts getting into the fourth quarter of the season, it’s like, ‘Okay.’ I know we’re not quite there yet. [Winston] is somebody that you know when it clicks, like, ‘I understand this; I understand how it goes.’ We have a couple like that as well, that the young players are starting to understand what is that. But the things that he brings is the decision making, the ability to escape within the pocket – you think you’ve got him and he’s able to slip a shoulder and come up and rip a ball – and I think it goes without saying, we all knew this coming out of college, what the competitor was. And I think he’s proven what the competitor is at this level, as well. He’s a challenge for sure. He’s got our respect. What we’ve seen firsthand and on tape, he’s got our respect.”
(On the inconsistency of Atlanta’s offense of late and how much of a role turnovers play in that)
“I think for sure the turnovers are factors. Some of them even kind of accounting on where they happened, because it wasn’t the points given up on the other end, but it ended up being some of the points that were taken away from where the turnover happened on the drive. So that, for sure, is a factor. We want to attack in every single way: the run game, the pass game. We’ve had some good preparation and we just can’t wait to get back out and get rolling again. The turnovers have for sure been a factor, but there are other ways and areas that we’re going to improve upon and we’re working like crazy to get that part of our game exactly right. Our best ball is out there for us and that’s the challenge from the whole team standpoint, for us to go get it.”
(On the notion that quarterbacks receive most of the blame when a team is performing poorly)
“I think it kind of goes with the territory, and we understand those circumstances and we certainly respect and understand. Like when it’s really good, he’s the one we’re talking about, and when it’s not, it’s where the questions come first. But I can tell you that the guy is an absolute competitor and we know that hard work still works. His mindset, the attitude to improve and get better and fix the things that he wants to get just right in his game, for those of us who have known Matt, for you guys who cover him and watch him, you know it’s there and we just can’t wait to get back out again. Sometimes when you’re not playing as well as you want, man are you champing at the bit to get playing again. That’s our team, that’s where we’re at, including Matt.”
(On whether preparation for this game is different, with both Tampa Bay receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans on the field)
“I think it’s kind of the way you can use the personnel, like how many two-receiver sets, how many one-receiver sets. So the full complement of stuff is there, and that always can be a challenge when all the personnel groups are alive and running. Then, as we get into the game, how do they want to attack and how do we want to attack? So that’s kind of the fun matchups that we go through in the NFL. It’s receivers, it’s pairs of receivers, quarterbacks, running backs, and I think one of the reasons they’re so explosive is there’s a number of guys that can get the big plays for them, whether it’s Vince, whether it’s Mike, or at the running back spot, the quarterback. So that’s the challenge for us. They’re really good in terms of explosive plays on offense and we’ve done a good job defensively in explosive plays allowed, so what a great matchup heading into the game. And I know it’s one that both teams are ready to rock on.”
(On neutral zone infractions)
“Generally, when you have some, you know it’s going to be up for a while, where the teams are really going to try and draw you. That’s been my experience. For instance, a hitter who’s struggling with the curve ball, what are you going to see? That usually happens when there are infractions, jumping offsides. Sometimes it can be, what we’ve noticed in the past penalty-wise, whether it’s a DPI or an OPI or offsides, it’s been more one player than an entire unit. So sometimes it can be fairly obvious when, ‘Okay, this corner had this many PIs, let’s fix the technique,’ or ‘This rusher had this many offsides, let’s fix the technique.’ I think that’s part of it, too, because sometimes it can be a unit problem and sometimes it can be an individual problem.”
(On how excited he is about playing this week and whether having been out the past couple weeks has been frustrating)
“I’m excited to be back out there and just go out there and work hard. I think I’m a real competitive person – I just like the grind, I just like to prove to my teammates and my coaches how much I love the game of football and how much I enjoy the grind. As far as frustration, it’s just a process. I couldn’t really control the situation, what happened, I just had to wait. God does things for a reason. I just had to wait and have faith and trust the process.”
(On the mood of the team)
“It’s been frustrating, of course. Nobody signs up to lose. We’re just being real positive about it. We can’t dwell on the past. All we can do is get better, see how we can grow, see how we can fix our mistakes. I don’t think anything super, super bad happened that needed to be changed [as far as] any changes in the offense or defense, we just have to go out there and compete and play harder and finish four quarters.”
(On Tampa Bay linebacker Kwon Alexander)
“I like that guy. He’s a competitor first, he’s a dog. When I played against him, after the game I was like, ‘Man, that guy, he was on me.’ I think he’s a real competitive person. He’s just got that mentality, that dog mentality, that ‘I will not lose.’ I don’t know him personally, but I can just tell when a guy’s got that dog in him, and him and [Lavonte David], I respect those guys so much.”
(On Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, a former college teammate)
“One of my main memories of him [is] how competitive he was. He’s a guy [who has] that killer mentality, like, ‘I won’t stop, I won’t stop, I won’t stop; I want to win, I want to be great.’ I truly believe that he’s the type of guy who is not in it for nothing but the love of the game. The memories I have with him are just how hard he competed and grinded. After all the success he had, he still was a humble, goofy person, and I just love his character, everything about him. He takes football real serious, but it’s not like the end of the world for him. That’s one thing I really like about him.”
(On whether he is surprised to see the success that Winston has had this season)
“No, because I know the type of person he is. It may be shocking or surprising to a lot of other people, but I wasn’t surprised by the touchdowns he threw or the success that he’s had, because I know how hard he worked in the film room, on the field and off the field.”
(On the importance of this game to Atlanta)
“It’s a big deal. It’s almost like win or go home right now. You know you have to put it all on the line. They are going to come in and play us physical, hard. We’re going down there to play them – we’re coming in with the same mentality. But I think it’s going to determine our season. Every game is going to come down to it, so we just have to continue to do what we do and get better.”
(On the notion that quarterbacks receive most of the blame when a team is performing poorly)
“Quarterbacks are normally like the [face] of the organization, basically, so they are almost next to the boss, so they’re going to of course take all of the blame and stuff. Even if they play good, it’s always something with the quarterback. When the offense is on the field, we need all 11. Matt [Ryan] can’t do it with nine or eight or seven – he’s got to do it with all 11. Everybody has to be on the same page and I feel like that’s where a lot of the fans get it messed up. It’s all, not just one.”

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