HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
T Duane Brown is not here. Do you have anything you can say about his situation?
“I don't have much to say on that. I'm just coaching the players that are here. Duane knows how we feel about him, how I feel about him. I’d love to have him here but, again, at the end of the day, the guys who are here, that’s who we’re coaching. We’ve had a very, very good offseason. We’re in the ninth week right now. I think these guys are getting tired of each other a little bit, going against each other the way we compete, but we’ve had a very productive offseason. A lot of good things have come out of it and we’re looking forward to training camp.”
What’s the difference between the last OTA and the first day of minicamp?
“Nothing. The only difference is the club is eligible, for anyone that doesn't come, you can penalize that player. But that's the only difference. To me, everything else is the same. Now, some other coach may answer that some other way but I think it’s the same thing.”
Did you have retired United States Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell speak to the team?
“Yeah, he was awesome. Marcus and I met at the Preakness (Stakes) a couple years ago. As everybody knows he’s an awesome guy. Just because of my schedule and the things that he was doing we weren't able to get him in here the last couple of years. We got him in here and he did a great job. Spoke for about an hour, took questions. There are just so many things that relate to what he went through – it's not life or death on the football field – but just the foundation of teamwork and having each other's backs and those kinds of things. The guy was awesome. He's a passionate guy, great guy to listen to. I think all of us could have listened to him all day but we had to get to practice at some point. But we thank Marcus and we thank him for his service to our country. We especially thank him for today.”
How much would you say the offense is changing from years past?
“I wouldn't say it’s changed. I just think we’re all excited about this team. We’re all excited about the way this team is shaping up relative to OTAs and minicamp, what we can be. In all three phases we’re just trying to play fast, so I think that takes simplifying, less thinking, get out there, play at a good tempo, make sure everybody's on the same page, great communication, details as far as where to line up and all those different things, but let's not make it too complicated for the players. I think that’s where we’re at right now.”
How do you think ILB Benardrick McKinney has progressed?
“Bernardrick’s getting better and better every year. He’s a guy who I have a lot of respect for. He came in here and learned the game pretty quickly. I remember his first game – he’ll probably tell you this, too – he was hyperventilating on his first drive. I think he’s come a long way since then. I thought he had a Pro Bowl-type of year last year. Last year’s over but I think the guy is poised to have a really good career here. A lot of it is going to have to do with health, but I think as long as he stays healthy he's a hell of a football player.”
Is QB Tom Savage 100 percent your guy or do you let this play out into training camp and see how QB Deshaun Watson and others position themselves at the top?
“They’re all my guys. Now, some of them may not agree with that. ‘I don’t know if I’m his guy,’ or whatever. I think it’s a very competitive roster. I think that Tom is the number one quarterback and I think that (Brandon) Weeden and Deshaun have made Tom better, and vice-versa. I think the quarterback play this spring has been very, very good with all of the things that have been thrown at us, and I think it’s been good relative to the stages of their careers that they’re at. With Brandon being the oldest guy and Tom being in his fourth year now. Deshaun’s been very impressive relative to being a rookie, so it’s a competitive position. Tom’s number one. He knows, like I said from day one, he’s got to earn it every day. That’s the type of roster that we have. I would say that about everybody on our roster. From J.J. Watt on, everybody’s got to earn it every single day. That was the message that Marcus (Luttrell) talked to us about today. So, I think it’s made everybody better at the position, the competition of the position. It’s been good for the team.”
What does QB Deshaun Watson need to improve on?
“I think that’s probably between me and Deshaun. There’s a lot of things he does well. There’s a lot of things Tom (Savage) does well, Brandon (Weeden) does well. They’ve all thrown the ball very well. They’ve all, in their own right, relative to their experience in our system, commanded the offense well. They’ve had their share of mistakes. They see a lot from our defense. I think knowledge of defense for every single one of them is going to be very important, and then communication with their teammates is going to be big. Everybody has areas to improve upon.”
How far has QB Deshaun Watson come in terms of processing the offense?
“He’s come a long way. He’s in here all the time. There is no questioning this kid’s work ethic. He’s in here on the weekends. I wasn’t even here this past weekend, my kid was in here. I don’t know how that happened but he was in there I think with Fitzy’s (Craig Fitzgerald) kids and saw Deshaun in there, ‘Hey dad, Deshaun was in there.’ And I think you’d say the same about Tom (Savage) and Brandon (Weeden). These guys are working hard at it. They take a lot of mental reps. One of the things that I preach with these guys is that when they’re not in there, let’s make sure we’re taking a mental rep. What would I do on this play, pre-snap and post-snap, and I think they’re all doing a good job of that.”
DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY
What’s this offseason program been like for you?
“It’s been great. We still get back to work. Still got to try to get to where we want to get: farther in the playoffs and try to win a Super Bowl. That’s our goal.”
Are you excited about going away for training camp?
“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. Get out of this heat. It’s going to be big for our team. I think it’s going to help us in the long run. It will be good for us.”
Are you going to be better this year than you were last year?
“That’s the goal. That’s what we’re working toward. It’s a new year every year. You got to come out and prove yourself every year. I just come in to prove myself again.”
How much better is it for you knowing the position that you’re playing and having the experience knowing you can succeed at that position?
“It’s a lot better for me. It’s gotten a lot easier. Everything is coming for me now. I spend more time focusing on who I’m going against than myself doing my job because I kind of know what I got to do. It’s going against opponents and figuring out new stuff, working on my craft.”
Do you enjoy getting to be out there with DE J.J. Watt?
“Yeah, I enjoy it. He’s a great leader, like I said last year. He’s a good leader for our team and when he’s out there he brings excitement to our defense and everybody’s amped up. We feed off each other so we just go out there and compete.”
Is the defense even better than when you guys were number one last year?
“It’s a new year. I just said that. We have to come out here and prove ourselves again. With the addition of him being back, I think it’s going to help us. It has to help us. He’s one of the best players in the league, so it’s only up from here.”
Do you and DE J.J. Watt ever discuss what your expectations are for 2017?
“No, not just us. We got a lot of great players on our defense, up front anyways, with Whitney (Mercilus) and D.J. Reader, who stepped in last year and played big minutes. I feel like we keep our secondary good and everybody does stay healthy, we’re going to big things again like rank one again. So, we just have to come out here and compete every day and come to work.”
What do you expect from NT D.J. Reader in his second year?
“I expect him to come out and play like he did last year. He gave us big minutes last year. He played good. He’s a great run stopper. It’s only up for him. I think he’s going to be one of the best interior run-stopper guys in this league. If he keeps playing the way he’s playing, eventually it’s going to show and he’s going to be there.”
Have you adjusted to the position switch?
“Right now I’m just playing everything. They got me moving all over the field. I love what I’m doing right now. I love the schemes we got. They’re putting all the defenses together really good for us. They’re moving us around. Nobody is standing still, so that’s a good thing. Knowing the defense will make it a lot better so we really move on our own and move to certain spots that we know. It’s just basically game planning, really. That’s why I do that.”
How did you react when you saw the NFL Top 100 and saw yourself at 49, knowing that your colleagues hold you in that high regard?
“It’s pretty exciting, but then again, it’s like, I want to be higher than 49. So, I got to come out here and prove myself again this year, but I was happy about it. I’m just looking forward to this season.”
What do you think about Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel as the coordinator now?
“I love ‘Vrab,’ man. He’s the smartest football guy I’ve ever been around. Same guy every day – always high energy, up-going. That’s the only thing about he’s bringing that defense, the energy guy. We needed that. I’m looking forward to having him be our D coordinator. I love it.”
Are you okay with all these Clemson guys on the roster?
“We’re not talking about that, man. As long as they’re helping us win, I’m OK with it. If they aren’t doing that, we got to get them up out of there. No, I’m joking. They’re all right with me. We got the quarterback (Deshaun Watson), D.J. (Reader), Hop (DeAndre Hopkins). How many more you know on the team?”
Do you expect a lot of South Carolina people to come to training camp?
“I hope so. I don’t know. I’m just ready to get started.”
Physically, how do you feel at this time of year?
“I feel great.”
QB DESHAUN WATSON
How would you say things have gone for you so far in terms of processing the offense and feeling comfortable within the system?
“Everything’s been going pretty smooth. I’m getting a lot of help from Tom (Savage) and Brandon (Weeden). Just taking the reps that Coach OB (Bill O’Brien) is giving me and just taking advantage of my opportunity when my time comes. I’m getting better each and every day.”
What was the White House trip like?
“It was awesome. We had a great time. It was good to see my old teammates and coaches. Being able to get honored at the White House is always huge. We had a great visit.”
President Trump seemed to know a lot about you and your game against Alabama.
“Yeah, that was pretty – hopefully he watched it – but it was pretty cool.”
How did Clemson prepare you for the opportunity you have here?
“It just got me ready for the opportunity. Each time I take the field I’m going out there full-throttle, prepared, mentally sharp, physically ready, and whatever opportunity that steps in front of me, that I’m full ready for it. Clemson made sure that everyone comes ready for whatever opportunity I have, and (I’m) prepared for it.”
How much did you enjoy that drill at the end?
“It’s always good. Coach OB (Bill O’Brien) does a great job of throwing different things at us at practice, not being really aware of, just kind putting us in uncomfortable positions. They always say get comfortable being uncomfortable, so I think that was a cool thing for us to do.”
How important has it been to use every available moment you have to learn this system and this offense?
“It’s always big. I want to be mentally sharp when I step on the field. I want to be able to operate the offense (and) be able to come out here and execute at a high level. I have to put the time in, pay my dues so when I come out here I’m ready and I can show what I have.”
Is that the mindset you’ve always had?
“Yeah, that’s just something I’ve always had since I was a little kid. On and off the field just being able to, whenever my opportunity comes, take advantage of it and make sure that I’m prepared and find ways to get better each and every day.”
Where’d you get that mindset from?
“It’s just something I had. I guess my mom installing it into me and just making sure that whenever it comes that I’m prepared for it.”
Did you ever think twice about visiting the White House or did you always want to do it?
“No, it was on my bucket list. The White House visit was awesome. I had a great time with my teammates. There weren’t any second thoughts.”
What’s been the most eye-opening thing about coming from college to the NFL?
“I’m not even sure, really. Just being able to – every time I step on the field it’s kind of still hitting me that I’m in the NFL. It’s a blessing to here. It’s a great opportunity. I’ve worked so hard to get here. Each and every day I have to bring it because everyone’s good.”
What are your impressions of this team so far?
“It’s been good. The people here have been embracing me. I’ve been embracing the city, embracing this logo, being able to represent a great organization. Hopefully it continues. The time I get off on the weekends, being able to tour and explore has been good.”
It’s been a long time since you haven’t been the No. 1 guy. Has that been a little weird for you?
“No, because I always have that mentality that I have to prove myself each and every day. So, regardless of where I’m at or what position or what’s going to happen, I’m always going to try to improve and get better.”
Did any of your teammates ask about your NFL experience and what you’re going through? What kinds of things were they asking?
“That was really short and quick. They just asked how things were going, how spring ball was. But really after that, we joked around about the season, how they’ve been off the field, any funny stories they’ve had. They’re in summer camp, summer school, so any funny stories that always happen there. So, nothing really too much about the NFL, we’re just kind of bringing back the old memories.”
Is there anyone in the locker room you’re particularly leaning on to help guide you through this experience?
“Really all of the veterans. Really the whole team. I ask everyone questions: the rookies that were here last year, because they just went through it, the veteran guys that have been here for a while. Just really anyone that I could learn from and try to make this experience a lot smoother is always good to talk to.”
With WR DeAndre Hopkins being a Clemson guy, has he gone out of his way to give you some experience and be that positive voice in your ear?
“Of course. Not just him but all the guys. Everyone on the team just being able to contact me or talk to me in the locker room, on the field, defensive guys, offensive guys, special teams. Anyone that, like I said, I can ask questions to or that feel that they could give the advice and help me out. They’ve all been able to talk to me.”
Are you getting faster at reading progressions?
“Of course. It takes experience and each day is an opportunity for me to improve on that, get comfortable in the position and just continue to learn.”
Do you enter training camp trying to win the job or do you let that process take care of itself and just improve every day?
“I just go out and compete and whatever’s best for the team is best for the team. I’m one of the team players so I do my job, play my role and do it well.”