HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What has Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel meant to what you guys have accomplished and the position you’re in right now?
“He does a great job. Been doing it for a long time, has got a lot of experience, great poise, handles the room really well, both the player room and his coaching staff room. He’s got a really strong staff underneath him and he does an excellent job. I think the players really respect him.”
Was it hard to convince him to leave what he was doing to come here?
“I’m trying to remember. Look, we talked. Obviously there were some mutual connections. He had heard about me. Obviously I had called plays against him. It was just something where I picked up the phone and tried to make a connection, and then we met and I talked to him about how I saw things here and how we would try to do things here, and he accepted the job. I’m trying to piece it all together but that was a while ago.”
How difficult of an assignment is it for your offensive line to try to get Bengals DT Geno Atkins blocked?
“It’s a very difficult assignment. He’s one of the best inside tackles in the league. You’ve got him and then obviously Jurrell Casey. I mean, these guys are really, really good players. The thing about Cincinnati is they’re good across the front. You’ve got (Domata) Peko in there, and then on the edge with (Carlos) Dunlap, Michael Johnson. You’ve got some real difficult guys to deal with. Length on the edge, athleticism, and then obviously Geno on the inside, playing against the run, rushing the passer. So, it’s a big challenge for us.”
They’re saying Bengals WR A.J. Green may come back for this game. What are your thoughts on him and that matchup?
“One of the best in the league. Tall, rangy, great hands, speed, great route-runner. Big challenge for us.”
What are your thoughts on S Quintin Demps? He seems to be hitting his stride with three interceptions in the last four games.
“He’s done a great job. He’s a really top player. That’s one of those guys. I was happy for all of those guys that made the Pro Bowl – obviously starting with (Jadeveon) Clowney and then the other guys – but Quintin’s played really well too back there. A.J. Bouye’s played really well. But as it relates to Quintin, he’s a really good veteran in the fact that he shows up to practice every day. He helps us on the scout team. He works on his craft every day after practice. He’s really good with the younger players. Very good communicator. He’s tackled very well for us this year, he’s got good ball skills, he can return if we needed him in that type of capacity, kickoff return. So, he’s a great guy to have in the locker room.”
How did you feel like OLB Brennan Scarlett did last week?
“I thought he did a good job. I thought he did a good job. I mean, he made a couple plays that were really tough plays to make. For his first time out there, I think he did a nice job. He’s got a bright future for us. He’s got to keep it going. I think we have all those guys – with (John) Simon and (Whitney) Mercilus back, maybe the playing time will be a little difficult moving forward here, but I think he’s got a good future for us.”
We saw NT Vince Wilfork and your son Michael together during warmups and stretching today at practice.
“Yeah, Michael loves coming over to practice, loves football. Vince is great to him. All the guys are. He’s in there - (Shane) Lechler, don’t tell anybody this, but Lechler’s his favorite player. He’s wears a No. 9 jersey to the games. I don’t know how Lechler conned him into doing that. But he loves coming over here. The guys are great to him, being in the locker room and things like that, being out on the practice field. He’s a nice kid. He’s a lot like his mother.”
It seemed like NT Vince Wilfork and your son had a good rapport going.
“Like I said, Vince is great. Vince has got kids himself. He knows how important that is. But all the guys – Mike Vrabel brings his sons over here. His son Tyler, sometimes he jumps in on Saturday walkthroughs and plays left tackle for us a little bit. Don’t tell the league that, I guess that would be illegal. He’s only a junior in high school. Then John Butler brings Manny, his son, over and then John Perry with his kids. I think it’s really good that we’re able to do that. I think the McNairs encourage that. Now that it’s Christmas time, those kids are out of school. They have like a three week break from school. That’s amazing how much time they have off from school. But it’s good to have them over here.”
Have you been impressed with how the defense has been able to keep things going despite all the injuries this season?
“I mean, I think you give a lot of credit to the guys that have stepped in and had to play for us. We just talked about (Brennan) Scarlett last week. Robert Nelson stepped in and has done some nice things for us. Denzel Rice, Don Jones on special teams. There’s been a lot of guys that have stepped in over the course of the year on defense, special teams and offense that have done a nice job for us. I give credit to the players. I think Romeo (Crennel) and the coaching staff do a great job, but at the end of the day it’s a players’ game. They’ve got to go out there and execute and execute the call. We don’t really change anything. People always ask me about simplifying and doing that. These guys are smart guys. They’re able to pick the game plan up right away. We go out there and do what we do. I think it’s a credit to the players that were able to, especially like you said on defense, were able to play at that level.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR ROMEO CRENNEL
What did you think about DE Jadeveon Clowney being named to the Pro Bowl?
“I was very happy for him. He’s gone through some stuff the first couple years and hasn’t been able to get on the field. This year, he’s been able to stay on the field and been able to show what kind of ability he has. So, I think it’s good that other people recognize that ability and he’s been helping us win. So, it’s good.”
Could you talk about the job that Secondary Coach John Butler has done and do you see him being a defensive coordinator one day?
“Sure. I think several guys on the defensive staff have the ability to be coordinators, and I think John is definitely one who can be a coordinator, has been a coordinator. He’s a very hard worker, he’s detailed. I think it’s hard to outwork him. He’s got a good football mind, makes adjustments on the sideline. All of those things are good.”
You guys are 18-0 at halftime since you’ve been here and 5-0 this season. What does that say about the team that you haven’t blown one halftime lead in three years?
“Well, I think overall it says that they’re playing good team defense because that’s what we preach and that’s what we talk about. The things that we emphasize to them about how you have to play the game to win, what you need to do to win. I think that they pay attention, they listen and then they try to do those things. As a result of it, we’ve been able to win.”
Are you surprised to hear that 18-0?
“Yeah. I am because basically I go week-to-week. Every week is a battle, so what happened before that, it happened before that.”
What are a couple things that make you one of the all-time great defensive coordinators?
“I don’t know about that. I’m just a hard worker, I try to do the best I can, try to get my guys to play hard, try to give them a good plan, and when all those things come together, we win. Like I tell them, I say, ‘When you guys do good, I do good. When you guys do bad, I do bad.’ So, you know, I kind of ride along with them, and when they do good, I do good.”
What do you think S Quintin Demps has done to help himself have the kind of season he’s having?
“Well, he makes tackles, for one. Like last week, he came up and he was very active in the running game and tackling and getting guys down. He’s good on the back end, making adjustments and getting guys lined up in the right spot. All of those things are important for the position he plays. I think the system fits him well, so as a result he fits well in the system and is able to play well in the system.”
Have you thought about how much longer you want to do this?
“Nope. Not really because I used to work with a guy named (Bill) Parcells, and he says as soon as you start thinking about retirement you might as well be retired. So, I don’t think about it. Like I said, I go week-to-week.”
Were you retired when Head Coach Bill O’Brien called you about the job? You were coaching an All-Star Game, right?
“Yeah, I was sitting at home with my feet propped up, getting on my wife’s nerves and just waiting to see if someone would call. The All-Star Game was just something I was invited to do and I felt like, ‘Good, I’d like to do that because it’s still football, still working with players.’ Then, Bill (O’Brien) gave me a call. At that point, I felt like the people that you work with are important. I had heard about Bill, I knew some of the guys he was thinking about hiring, I had met Rick (Smith), so I felt like this would be a good situation, so I decided to come.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
What are your thoughts on QB Tom Savage becoming the starter?
“Tom’s a pro’s pro. He prepped every day like he was the starter, even when he wasn’t starting. I’ve been working with Tom since he’s been here, since he’s been able to throw. We’ll get some throws in. I really haven’t had time to work on things before he started, but this week definitely.”
How have you seen QB Tom Savage grow?
“Just as a professional athlete, coming in here and prepping every day like he’s the starter, even when he wasn’t. Talking to guys about plays out there on the field, helping us out and telling us things that he sees that we can do.”
What do you think about QB Tom Savage’s arm strength? TE Ryan Griffin said he’s got a cannon for an arm.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah. We knew that from the day he came in. That’s how strong he can throw. That’s not surprising to us.”
Are you looking forward to the chance of clinching the AFC South title for the second straight year?
“Yeah, that would be awesome. That talks volumes about this team. We don’t always start good. Sometimes we start good and don’t finish good. But to have that title, that’s great.”
What are some things that stand out on Cincinnati’s defense?
“The way those guys get after it. Their record isn’t the best right now but that team still has a lot to fight for and it shows when you watch their film, how they go out there and get after guys. They’re not going to take anything from anybody. They got a lot of veterans on their team, a lot of guys that have played a lot of football, very instinctive.”
OLB WHITNEY MERCILUS
How does it feel to get back on the football field this week?
“Oh, it feels good. It feels good. I’m excited to be back. Definitely, sitting on the sidelines I was struggling. I was struggling just seeing the guys ball out, and I wanted to be out there to ball out with them. It feels good to be back. I feel great and I can’t wait to get this W.”
How hard was that for you to be out and how good does it feel to be back?
“Man, it was hard. That’s probably – no, it’s actually the second game I’ve only been out in my career. So, just standing on the sidelines and seeing everybody ball out, I wanted to be part of that too – I still technically was. It feels good to be back. I feel great, so I can’t wait to be out there with my teammates and get this W.”
What do you think about your opportunity to clinch the AFC South for a second straight season in the next couple weeks?
“Yeah, we have a great opportunity to do that. So, all we have to do is just take care of business, really, these next two weeks and pretty much control our destiny.”
Can you sum up the mood in here with those opportunities ahead?
“We feel great. We understand what’s at stake and pretty much everybody understands we’ve got to win these next two games no matter what. Can’t let any outside forces determine our fate. That’s it.”
What’s it like to play for Defensive Coordinator Romeo Crennel?
“It’s awesome. He’s able to use a lot of guys in different areas in different, versatile ways. So, it allows people to be put into positions to make plays.”
What are your thoughts on DE Jadeveon Clowney making his first Pro Bowl? He’s been through a lot to get to that point.
“Oh yeah, of course. Everybody knows that. Man, it couldn’t happen to a better guy, for that to happen. All the things he’s gone through, all the battles he’s had to face, and for him to actually be a Pro Bowler, man, it’s a testament to his talent, his work ethic as well, just to get there.”
What about Bengals QB Andy Dalton and their offense?
“Great guy. That offense, they have guys who can make plays. A.J. Green. Dalton, he’s a guy who can scramble, hurt you with his feet. He can make all the throws as well. Up front, it’s guys who’ve been together for a while so they have a lot of chemistry. We’ve got to be able to get pressure on them, we’ve got to be able to shut down the passing game and stop the run as well.”