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10 December 2014

Week 15 Conference Call Transcripts: at Carolina (12/14/14)

HEAD COACH RON RIVERA
 
(On if he noticed anything different in practice last week that signaled they would be firing on all cylinders against New Orleans)
“Well probably the biggest thing was the continuity on the offensive line for the first time in a while. We started the same group of guys – the same five – and I think that was one of the big pluses. The second was we’ve been running the ball well. Jonathan [Stewart] is looking stronger and stronger, our quarterback was real comfortable in there. I think that was probably one of the biggest things that we’ve had was the continuity and consistency on the offensive line for the first time.”
 
(On if he has made a decision on who will start for them at quarterback this week)
“Yeah, it’s quite obvious with Cam [Newton’s] situation right now, so Derek Anderson will be the starter.”
 
(On what he was doing when he heard the news about quarterback Cam Newton’s car accident and if this situations provides perspective)
“Quite honestly, we had just broke from a meeting and going to lunch when the reports started to come in. At first – I guess a couple of years ago or this year, there was a hoax going around about him as well. So when we heard it, we said, ‘We’ll see.’ I asked somebody to call our director of team security and they said, ‘Well he’s already headed down to the site.’ I said, ‘Really?’ Because it was about a block away from our facility. So we had people headed to the site right when it happened and it was most certainly an eye-opener. It does put a lot of things into perspective in terms of the importance of life. Thank goodness nobody was hurt seriously – him or the other driver of the [other] vehicle.”
 
(On if it helps to be playing a team that quarterback Derek Anderson has already faced)
“I think that’s a plus that he’s played and will have confidence going into this game. He’s a veteran who has done a nice job throughout his career. He’s started a lot of games in this league so he’s a savvy guy. We’ll try to do what he does best. The nice thing about it is he will work Wednesday, Thursday, Friday getting all the reps and just get himself prepared and ready to go.”
 
(On the mental and physical toughness of Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown)
“He’s a fighter. I was [thinking] back to what happened with him last year, watching him do the things that he did in Chicago and just knowing that he’s a tough-minded – a mentally and physically tough guy. Does some nice things, has got a good arm, makes good decisions. He’s got some good targets; he’s got good athletes out there making plays for him – one I’m very familiar with, Vincent Jackson, who I think is a terrific football player. They’ve got some runners back there. So it’s just a matter of him getting his rhythm going. When you watch him, he throws some really nice balls.”
 
(On the NFC South’s performance this year and if he feels fortunate to be in the division this season)
“We are very fortunate. We understand the situation. And it happens every year – one of the divisions are down. I don’t know if you can say ‘down’ as much as, ‘They’ve played some tough competition, they’ve had some bad things happen, some unfortunate things.’ Tampa has a new coaching staff trying to get their system in place, trying to get their guys to try to buy in to what they’re doing. We’ve had some injuries and some situations [and] circumstances, as has Atlanta and New Orleans. It’s part of the game, it happens every year. There was a couple of years ago, Seattle gets in [the playoffs] at 7-9 and they win their first round game. I was in San Diego when 8-8 guys made the playoffs [and] we won our first round game. So it’s not like teams that get in with records like that don’t deserve to be in it if they’re going to go around and win their first round game. I mean that just makes sense to me [that] it’s about the division [and] who wins the division and that’s why it’s set up the way it is. Wild Card teams have gone on and won the Super Bowl. You see it happening in other sports – the [San Francisco] Giants had to play their way into the World Series and they end up winning.”
 
(On what he is looking for as a coach with teams that have already been eliminated from playoff contention)
“We went through it my first two seasons that this carrot was removed, but believe me, knowing Coach Smith and how it works for him, he’s going to expect these guys to come out and play because it’s all about what you’re doing going forward. He’s going to preach it and he’s going to stay on his guys. I know his guys on his coaching staff are going to coach this team hard and they’re going to come out and play hard. I’m sitting there watching them against Detroit – they had every opportunity to win that football game. Their guys are learning to come together, learning to work together. I still feel as this team grows and develops and takes on Coach Smith’s personality, this is going to be a hard-nosed football team and we’re going to have to contend with for years to come. So it’s just a matter of time. And believe me, Coach Smith, he’ll find the right way to sell it to these guys. These guys are going to buy into it and they’re going to believe it. The system works; it’s just a matter of getting developed in it.”
 
(On what he sees from Tampa Bay rookie wide receiver Mike Evans)
“I see a guy very similar to our [rookie wide receiver, Kelvin Benjamin]. He’s a dynamic football player. He reminds me of a young Vincent Jackson. Like I said, I was fortunate enough to be with Vincent in San Diego and watch him play and see the kind of player that he is, and I see Mike Evans doing a lot of things that Vincent Jackson was doing when he was younger. He’s a dynamic football player, he’s a playmaker, he’s physical. That’s one thing he does: he plays physical too. He matches the physicality of the people he’s playing against. He’s got a great opportunity I think to be a good player in this league for a long time.”
 
TIGHT END GREG OLSEN
 
(On if it helps to be playing a team that quarterback Derek Anderson has already faced)
“First off, I don’t think you would want to go through something like this, where you have one of your players injured off the field with something like this, obviously your starting quarterback. We did play with [Derek Anderson] with a ton of confidence. He’s played this team before. I think those are all positives. It’s obviously not an ideal situation to lose your starting quarterback, especially in this manner, but we have all the confidence in the world in [Derek Anderson].”
 
(On what was the key to their dominating win against New Orleans last Sunday)
“The big emphasis we had going into the game was just get off to a better start, get off to a fast start. Last couple weeks prior, we were falling behind early, digging ourselves out of the hole – that’s just not our style. We wanted to get off to a good start, especially offensively, and with that opening drive, we accomplished just that and it seemed to kind of set the stage for the rest of the day and we kept the momentum going.”
 
(On how motivating it is to only be a half-game out of the playoffs this late in the season)
“Oh, it’s extremely motivating. That’s what you play for. Every year, [teams] put up in the offseason their team goals, the first one is to win their division – that’s across the board. Somehow, things obviously haven’t gone well for really any of us, generally speaking, in the division, but we find ourselves still in the hunt. It’s a little unconventional and it’s not typical of the NFC South, but it is what it is right now and we’re not going to apologize [and] we’re going to continue to try to win each game. That’s been our approach all season.”
 
(On how his son is doing and how he has dealt with his health issues)
“He’s doing well. He’s come a long way from that first time we played you guys when he was still in the hospital recovering from his surgeries. He’s had a rough road, he’s had kind of an up-and-down couple of years, but right now he’s home from the hospital – he’s been home for a while – he’s doing well [and] he’s really starting to thrive. So we’re very fortunate and blessed to have gotten through kind of the rockiest part of it and we just hope and pray that he continues to do well going forward.”
 
(On the biggest differences he sees in Tampa Bay’s defense compared to Week 1)
“I think the injuries have obviously changed a lot of the faces, like it does to a lot of teams, but especially in this season on their side of the ball [and] they got some new guys in the secondary. But I think from a personnel standpoint, I still think that they’re very talented; I think their defensive line and linebackers are a real talented group. All their linebackers are quick, active, can get to the ball, and they can get after the quarterback. I think scheme-wise, I think they’re very true to what they want to be. I think Lovie and his staff are tremendous. I played for Lovie before. They’re very disciplined, they’re very sure of what they want to be, and it’s tested through time and it’s successful. So we expect a type of a challenge. We know this defense is going to come out and play aggressive and play hard and we have to be on top of our game.”
 
(On the impact that rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has had on the offense)
“It’s been huge obviously with all the roster turnover in the offseason at that position to have Kelvin come in as our top pick and hit the ground running from the first game and keep that consistency. Obviously he’s a big, physical kind of guy – he brings a ton to the table physically – but his mental approach for a young kid has been tremendous. He studies, he wants to do well, he wants to do everything right. And there’s a reason he’s had success on the field. He works that way, he continues to want to improve and I think for a young rookie receiver, what he’s doing is tremendous. So we’re happy to have him and thankful he’s on our side and he’s just going to – the sky is the limit. He’s just going to continue to get better.”
 
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