Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Quarterbacks Coach Sean Ryan
QB Deshaun Watson
DE J.J. Watt
Conference Call with Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey
Conference Call with Titans QB Marcus Mariota
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
What have you seen from the Titans RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry?
“They’re similar in that they’re both big backs. They’re physical backs, but they have different running styles. I really don’t want to get into all the different styles that they have, but they definitely have different styles you can see on film and they’re both very, very good. It’s going to be a very physical game. Mike’s (Mularkey) done a great job with that team. They’ve got a good football team. It’s going to be a real physical challenge.”
Do you have an update on WR Will Fuller V?
“He’s trending in the right direction. We release the injury report, so you guys will see it when it’s released, whatever time they release it.”
Does RB D’Onta Foreman seem to be the short-yardage power back for you guys?
“Yeah, he can do a few different things. I mean, he can definitely get tough yards up inside. He’s a big guy, he runs with a good forward lean. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run to the outside. He’s got a really good skillset. He just needs to keep working. He’s got to always work on conditioning. Those bigger backs always have to work on conditioning and staying in the weight room because he’s a very naturally good, instinctive football player. We just need to keep working with him but I think the more reps he gets, the better he’s going to get.”
Although you watch OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney every day in practice, are you still surprised to see how fast and athletic he is during games?
“He’s an explosive player. He’s always – ever since we’ve seen him, even when we were researching him and studying him in college, he always had a knack for the football. He always had a way of creating a turnover by putting – basically directing his body right at the ball, his hands right at the ball. Once he gets the ball in his hands, which he’s been able to do the last couple of games, I mean, he can run. I mean, he can fly. He’s a 270-pound guy. He can really run. He played running back in high school so he’s got a very good skillset and he’s tough to handle, there’s no doubt about it.”
Has OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney done any lobbying to play tight end, like DE J.J. Watt has?
“No, not yet. But now that you asked that question, I’m sure he’ll go on his Twitter feed and see that question and lobby for more reps at tight end.”
Do you talk to QB Deshaun Watson about protecting himself?
“I absolutely talk to him about that. I show him tapes of different guys over the last, let’s just say, 10 years. I show him his own plays. We drill it in practice. But at the end of the day, he has a very good instinct for it and he’s going to be defended in different ways. Tennessee, they just have a different defense than New England. They’re going to defend him in a different way and he’s got to understand that being able to slide or maybe duck it out of bounds before he takes a hit, that’s important for the team. He’s got to be out there for the team. I think he’ll get better and better at that. I thought he did a really good job of that in the New England game, but it’ll be different this week as to how they attack him. But yes, we definitely work on that.”
How have you seen QB Deshaun Watson be a leader on and off the field?
“I think, first of all, (with) leadership in football, you have to be a good player. So, he’s a good player and I think he’s really done a good job of coming into this locker room and being very respectful of the veterans in that locker room. I think the guys have a lot of respect for him because of his work ethic and then his ability to go out on the field and make plays. As long as that continues – that’s half the battle in leadership. You don’t really have to say anything if you’re that good of a player. I think his leadership skills are really good, especially for a young player. He takes command in the huddle, but I think it’s going to continue to grow, obviously, as he keeps playing.”
Is there any benefits of having three straight home games?
“Yeah, there probably is a benefit to it. I just actually talked to the team out there about this really being our first – and this isn’t any excuse for anything, this is just a fact – this is our first normal regular season weekly routine where you come in on Monday, you watch the tape, you lift, you meet, you get going on Tennessee, you give them the day off Tuesday. Wednesday, now you’re into a work week. First and second down, punt, punt return, those types of things. And they have to understand that. How does that relate to their schedule? But now you’ll have that routine for the next, especially with home games, for the next three weeks. So, I do think that helps. I think it gives you extra time, especially leading up to the game later in the week when you’re not having to get on a plane and things like that. We just have to do what we have to do, but I do think getting into more of a routine will definitely help, especially a younger player.”
How special was it to take part in the PLAY 60 All Ability Clinic with the Special Olympics athletes?
“I think you guys know me by now. That part of me, you really understand, that means a lot to me. I’m on the board of the Houston Special Olympics with Munch (Mike Munchak) and Bruce Matthews and John McClain, who’s very involved with that. I just think it’s a great organization, what they do for kids and how they teach kids to compete and the way that they treat kids and they teach them about teamwork and all those different things and treat them like normal kids like they want to be treated. I think it’s a fantastic organization. Always has been.”
What are the challenges of going against Titans Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau?
“He’s a great coach. It’s very challenging. Like I’ve said in the past, he’s the father of the zone blitz and he brings that to every team that he’s coached. Obviously we went against him in Pittsburgh and now here in Tennessee. It’s just very difficult to deal with because he knows how to design it, he knows how to disguise it. He does it in every package that he has, and it’s hard. And I think that’s something that we’ve got to really do a good job of this week of the scout team giving a good look, having really good, sharp meetings, coaches being prepared in meetings. I thought the coaches did a great job this morning of preparing these guys for what it was at practice today. We have to continue that tomorrow because it’s a big challenge.”
Titans Head Coach Mike Mularkey said having a mobile quarterback can help you prepare against a mobile quarterback. Do you agree with that?
“Yeah, I agree with Mike on that in certain ways. We have a number of guys, maybe not a number, but we have a few guys that can give us a look on the offensive scout team, whether it’s Deshaun (Watson) or some other guys because of the skillset that we have at certain positions that can give us that look. I think he is right. When you have guys that are mobile back there and you go against each other in practice quite a bit, it probably does help the defense and vice versa.”
How impressed have you been with the throws QB Deshaun Watson has been able to make despite his age?
“I think the guy’s got a really good arm. I think he’s an accurate passer. When he’s able to be protected, when there’s a good pocket right there and he can stand in there, he can deliver the football. He can make all the throws. He can throw the deep out from one hash to the opposite side of the field, left and right. It’s not easy for a right-handed quarterback to make that deep bow route out to the left from the right hash. He can throw deep balls. He can make all the throws. I think the big thing is, it’s not about that. I think with a young quarterback, especially a guy like Deshaun who’s got so many different skills, I think it’s important to really talk about the pocket and how you need to present yourself, basically, in the pocket. What’s your pocket presence like and how the thing is being blocked, because the pocket moves a little bit in certain schemes. That’s what we work on a lot with him and I think he’s getting better and better with that. He’s not a runner first, he’s a passer first. He wants to throw the football. He’s a very good passer and then he takes it from there. But I’ve always been impressed with his ability to throw.”
Have you been pleased with the improvement of ILB Zach Cunningham?
“He’s improved every week, knock on wood, because it has to continue. He’s played more and more – I think he’s always been decent at being able to cover backs and be a good special teams player, be a good space player. I think where he’s gotten better and better is playing in the box and playing against the run. He’s been a physical guy in there and he did a good job against Cincinnati and he did a good job against New England in that regard. So, I think if that continues, if he’s able to study – Bobby (King) and Mike (Vrabel) are doing a great job with him. I think he’s going to continue to get better and better. That’s what he does, he works. He’s kind of a quiet kid and just works very hard to get better every week.”
Can WR Chris Thompson help on special teams?
“I think he can definitely help us there. I mean, you saw what he did in the preseason. He made some plays on the coverage units and then I think he can help us on offense. I think having fast guys is a good thing.”
What does it take for you to build up trust with young players?
“I think that’s a great question. I think the big thing there is what do you see in the meeting room, what do you see on the practice field? And then you try to make as good of a decision as you can because you will never know the answer to that question until they’re in that situation in a game. I was actually thinking about that the other day coming back from New England. I just think that once you’re in the game and you watch the guy, whatever position it is – offensive line, quarterback obviously, linebacker – how do they perform in the game? You know what they’ve done in practice, you trust it from what they’ve done in the meeting room, they know the answers to the questions, they can practice at a high level. Now, when it really matters the most, how do they perform in a game? And I think that’s where you learn the most about a guy, to be able to say, ‘Look, I trust this guy in that situation.’”
QUARTERBACKS COACH SEAN RYAN
Do you get scared when you see QB Deshaun Watson running around and what do you tell him?
“I would not say scared, at all, because I trust the guy’s instincts. I think when he does leave the pocket, he’s got a good feel for knowing when the play is over and when to get out of bounds and when to get down. We certainly talk to him about that, preach that to him, that at this level, things are going to close on him faster than they did when he was in college ball. Things are going to happen a little bit faster, so he’s got to be aware of that. We worked on it. We do the typical – we do slide drills with him, but we do preach to him a lot about getting out of bounds when the play’s over, to know when it’s over and take care of himself. But, I also think that he does a great job of – he’s back there and he’s going through his progressions and his reads. He gets back and he operates our pass game down the field and then he’s got the clock in his head and he does a good job of understanding when it’s time to run, but when it’s time to hang in the pocket, go through his progressions and make throws down the field, I think he’s done a nice combination of both of those things as a young guy.”
In terms of protecting yourself as a quarterback, how much of it is what you drill in practice and versus instincts that you do or don’t have?
“Yeah, I think it’s obviously necessary that he has the instincts and intuition, there’s no question about it, but I think it’s a combination. It’s a combination of us showing him film of other quarterbacks who are doing a good job, other quarterbacks who stayed up too long in certain situations and didn’t go down and it resulted in a hit that was unnecessary. So, you definitely have to have the instincts, you have to have the intuition, but you also have to make them aware and keep working it and keep drilling it into his head and keep pointing out whenever you get a chance on film, this is good and this is not what we’re looking for. So, it’s a combination of both.”
Who are some of the quarterbacks you point to that do a really good job of protecting themselves in the pocket and on the run?
“I think the first one that pops up to me is Aaron Rodgers. That’s the first name that comes in my mind. Obviously, he’s great with his feet, but he’s also known for a guy who can certainly stand in there and make plays down the field. So, I think he’s done a real good job of that. I think the young guy up in Dallas, (Dak) Prescott, he’s done a good job with it. He knows when to tuck it and go and he certainly has a knack for knowing when the play is over and getting down and getting out of bounds. So, you look at different combinations and different guys. Obviously, different points in their careers, but both can be used as teaching examples, I think.”
What do you expect Titans Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau to try to throw at QB Deshaun Watson as a young quarterback?
“I think he certainly, his background with the zone blitz is something that he can go to at any point. He understands what gives protections problems and young quarterbacks problems, quarterbacks in general, showing you one thing and bringing it from another area. So, kind of like what I said to you last week about seeing things post-snap is going to be really important, different clues that we can give him throughout the week and things like that, that’ll help him pre-snap. So, I think he’ll do that, I think he’ll hold looks, I think he’ll bring some heat after him and look to get after him that way. But, he’ll lean on what he’s done well in this league for a long time. He’s the father of that zone blitz and certainly that’s going to be part of the plan, I’m sure.”
How encouraged were you by the way QB Deshaun Watson handled some of the things the Patriots tried against him?
“Yeah, I’m encouraged by it. I think, again, like he did in Cincinnati, I thought him coming off the field and getting on the sidelines and being able to describe what he’s seeing. He does a good job of seeing the field, he sees it pre-snap, he sees it post-snap. Like all young guys, it’s a work in progress, but we were happy and I thought there was a lot of things to really build on from that performance on Sunday. We got a long way to go, he knows that, and that’s probably one of the things that gives us the best chance at getting there, is that he knows he’s got a long way to go.”
If WR Will Fuller V is able to come back on Sunday, what kind of boost would that be?
“It gives us a guy on the outside who runs good routes, who’s got good speed, can stretch the field. It’s another weapon and you always want your full complement of guys out there, so it certainly does a good job of distributing the coverage and they’re going to have to be aware of it if he’s out there.”
Has there been a moment where you have been wowed by QB Deshaun Watson’s leadership skills?
“Yeah, I think probably from the time he got here he’s done a little bit of that. I think leadership comes in different ways and with him, it’s sometimes, it’s just being at ease with people and the way he leads. You might not even realize that, if he’s talking to you, that he is leading you and giving you direction because of the way he does it. People respond to it, and that’s probably been one of the things that I’ve been most impressed with, is the response he gets from players, young guys and veterans in the locker room and on the field when he talks to them about what he’s thinking, what he’s seeing and what they can do to make everybody’s job a little better.”
You said that players might not realize that he’s leading them, what did you mean by that?
“He’s not directing people. He’s telling them, ‘Hey, this is what I’m seeing and if you can do this, this is what I think is going to make this work.’ You know what I mean? It’s his demeanor, it’s the way he comes across. You don’t feel like he’s telling you what to do. You feel like he’s talking football with you and helping you. That’s what I mean.”
You talked about how impressed you were with his communication, has there been a moment where you thought he did a really good job of communicating with the players or coaches?
“Yeah, I just think that every time the guy comes off the field, like I said, within that series, and I told you whether it was good or bad, and one of the things that’s been impressive to me is even if it’s not a good series, let’s say it’s a three-and-out, I mean, he’ll come off and be like ‘Hey, listen, I think this is what we’re having trouble with, this is what I’m not seeing, this is what I have to do a better job of.’ So, I think that kind of goes on through the game. I don’t know that there’s one instance that stands out to me. Just in general, I came off the field feeling after the game like this guy’s seeing and communicating with us what he’s going through in the game and it’s helping us to adjust with him throughout the game.”
QB DESHAUN WATSON
When you’re extending plays, how do you assess which risks are worth taking?
“I guess it kind of goes with all the stuff you said. Pre-snap reads, what the defense is looking like what they’re going to do, and then the post-snap read and what they’re changing to do, and then just kind of reacting and trying to make a play. Seeing the field, keeping my head up, seeing where guys are and just trying to give my guys a chance to make a play.”
How much is the game starting to slow down for you?
“I wouldn’t say it’s slowing down. Each play, each time I’m out there is fast. I’m starting to realize and recognize things a lot quicker, but as far as the game speed, it’s still fast to me. Each week, each rep is always another step for myself to play fast because I know what’s going on out there.”
Have you had to change the way you played in college to try to protect yourself more at this level?
“I just play free. I play fast, I play like I’ve always been playing my whole career, my life. That’s just making plays with feet if I need to, being a quarterback, standing in the pocket, making the passes to my receivers. The only difference is protecting myself. In college I can run over some linebackers and some DBs but at this level these are grown men so you always want to take the less hits and try not to take any hits, because the less hits you take, maybe the longer your career can be.”
Do you practice sliding?
“Sometimes we practice (it), depending on the type of day. If we’re in full pads where I can slide, then yes. But if we’re in shells and I have gym shorts on then you don’t want to get yourself hurt.”
Is that something you worked on before you got here?
“Yeah, at Clemson we did it. We actually had some practices where we had this waterslide and we kind of did it after practice. It was fun.”
Did you learn to slide playing baseball as a kid?
“I played baseball but I never slid. I kind of just ran the bases. I was fast enough by that time.”
Does it go against your DNA to slide?
“Not now. I’m trying to live another day. I’m not trying to get hit at this level.”
Have you taken a hit that made you realize this is a different level?
“Not just yet. I mean, the Bengals hit was pretty (hard) but anybody can take that hit, or give that type of hit. But not yet. I’m not trying to feel it.”
When you met WR DeAndre Hopkins back in the pre-draft process, what was that like and how has your relationship changed since then?
“Well, I kind of knew him before then, too, during my recruiting process at Clemson. I knew all the skill guys that are in the NFL right now. But since I’ve gotten here our relationship has grown and has continued to grow each and every day. The trust and loyalty we have on and off the field and just the way we can be able to communicate while we’re on the field and off the field, too.”
So you first met him when Clemson was trying to recruit you?
How did that meeting go?
“It was awesome. At the time, as a young high school guy, Clemson was actually the first school that offered me, so I was all big eyes in shock. Just seeing all the great athletes had they had, from Nuk (DeAndre Hopkins), Martavis Bryant, Sammy Watkins, Andre Ellington and so forth, just seeing those guys and being able to meet them and just picture myself being in their shoes and now being on the same team with him, that was a cool experience. We talk about it all the time, just kind of those moments, meeting before the game and that pregame.”
Do you think that helps your chemistry with WR DeAndre Hopkins?
“I guess you can say that. I guess so.”
Do you pride yourself on your communications skills in the huddle and off the field?
“Yeah. Being a quarterback, especially at this level, you have to be able to communicate with all the guys. You have to know how to communicate with the guys, when to communicate with the guys, what type of mood they’re in, and I guess your vibe and energy that you give off. That’s why went to Clemson. I graduated with a communications degree, so I guess that helped, too.”
What have you seen and heard from Titans Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau as a defensive strategist?
“He’s a master at what he does. He’s a long-time legend and he’s been doing it for a long time. He’s going to put pressure on the quarterback, make the quarterback make decisions and make the right decisions, make our players, our receivers, make plays one-on-one and be able to read zone and man coverage and then make our O-linemen win the matchups.”
Are you used to making so many would-be tacklers miss like you did on that play at New England or do you still surprise yourself?
“I just kind of react. I just play ball. I’ve been doing it for a long time. Just trying to make plays and really take pride in my athleticism and what I can do with the ball and the balance that I have with my feet. But especially at this level, it’s hard to do. Most guys don’t do it. After I saw that play, it was an eye-opener. So, it’s good.”
Have you had a play where the defense closed on you at a noticeably faster pace than in college?
“There’s been moments like that. Sometimes it happens – I know the first game, they were getting back there fast. The Bengals had a great D-line and this past week, the Patriots did too. You’re going to have moments like that regardless, I guess, what year you’re in. From a rookie to a guy like Tom Brady, there’s going to be moments where the D-line is going to get to you really, really fast.”
Can you talk about the confidence you have in your arm to fit passes in tight windows at this level?
“I’m just a confident person, regardless of what other people say. At this level and with this game, you have to be confident. If you don’t have any confidence in yourself, you will get exposed or you won’t be able to play to your potential. So, I just go out there, I let all the receivers (and) all my coaches know that I can make every throw. Just trust in me and let me do it and see what I got. Those opportunities came and I took advantage of it.”
How does it feel to know you give the fans hope?
“The reason I play football is because I love the game, I love the sport, I love the friendships and everything that comes with it. But at the same time, just giving people – not just for the city I play for and the teams that I played for before, but just people all around the world, just to be able to give them hope and courage to be able to fulfill their dreams. You can do it by having fun, and you don’t have to listen to what all the naysayers are saying. You just go out there, have fun and do it at a high level, and you can impact the world.”
DE J.J. WATT
What do you attribute to the fact that you’ve been so dominant against the Titans?
“I don’t know. This league is very much about – each game is different. We play them twice a year, so of course, you get an extra opportunity against every other team, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a team thing. Every year is different, every team is different. They have different players, they have different guys. So, I can’t say it’s all because of one team or one organization. It’s just, every year and every game’s a little bit different.”
Can you talk about their offense and specifically their running game?
“Yeah, they’ve obviously done a great job. They have a good offensive line, they have good running backs, they have a quarterback who can run. So, I mean, they do a really good job and they’ve obviously worked very hard to improve that area of their team and I think it’s been successful for them. So, we obviously see it as a big key to the game. You have to have respect for a team – I think they’re second in the league in rushing right now. You have to look at that and respect it.”
You lead the team in quarterback hits and you got very close to getting some sacks. Do you feel that it’s about to happen?
“I think that stat watching becomes very tricky. Just because the numbers may not be there, whatever it may be, it’s not necessarily always reflective of exactly what’s happening. If I have to take on two guys or three guys for our guys to go get four forced fumbles in a game, I’ll do that all game long. I don’t care. If I end the year with zero sacks but we have 40 as a team and 20 forced fumbles, I’ll take that all day long. Especially the older I get in my career and the more that I – I don’t care about the stats, to be honest with you. All I want to do is win football games. But, they will come. Like you said, the hits are there, they’re coming. But if teams are going to throw the whole house and the kitchen sink at me, we have some incredible players who are going to make great plays.”
What do you think about what you’ve seen from Titans T Jack Conklin so far?
“I think he’s done a great job. I think that he’s obviously come in and played very well, played at a very high level. Their whole offensive line has done a great job. In order to have a good running game, in order to have one of the top-rated rushing attacks in the league, you have to have a good offensive line. So, I give those guys a lot of credit and I think he’s come in and done a great job and I look forward to playing against him.”
How are the rules different when the quarterback can hurt you running?
“You just have to be smart. He’s obviously a guy that is very good with his legs, so you just have to be smart about it. You have to be disciplined, you have control your rush lanes, making sure everybody knows their assignment and what to do. But, as long as everybody’s aware of it and understands the situation, then you handle it. There seems to be a lot of guys in the league today who have that ability. So, if the situation arises, then you just make sure you handle it.”
As a defensive lineman, do you like it that this division has kind of played throwback football and runs the ball a lot?
“I think it’s, you know, it is getting a little bit of downhill running attacks, a little bit of old-school style, I guess. But, it’s fun. I mean, it’s fun. And as a defensive lineman, it’s fun because it makes you earn third down, it makes you earn pass rushing. That’s fun. So, you have to go out there and you better play good on first and second down if you want a good pass-rushing situation on third down. So, yeah, I enjoy it. You have to stick your hand in the ground, get down and dirty and make sure that you play tough-nose football, take on some double teams and make some plays.”
Do you feel like being at home for three straight weeks is a chance to build some momentum?
“Yeah, it’s nice to settle into a regular season schedule. Obviously, staying here at home for the next three weeks is going to be great, in front of our home fans and also just, we had the Thursday night game and then you’re playing after a Thursday, so it’s nice to have a schedule that’s just set, in-season, regular week schedule, playing at home, in front of our crowd. So, yeah, hoping to obviously slide into a bit of a groove here and have some good success off of it.”
Do you see a different running style from Titans RB DeMarco Murray and RB Derrick Henry, or do you see some similarities?
“I think they have some similarities, some differences. I think they’re both very successful and I think that when you have two guys of that caliber that are able to interchange with each other, I think that’s where you get some really good success. One guy gets tired, the other guy steps right in. I think that’s why they have success, but it’s also a nice, fun challenge for the defense, knowing that they have a couple of guys back there and a quarterback that can run. So, we need to make sure we do a really good job in that category.”
What do you think about the job ILB Zach Cunningham is doing in replace of ILB Brian Cushing?
“I think he’s doing a good job. I think that he’s gaining confidence each week. I think he’s gaining experience. I think he’s continuing to grow into himself and it’s going to take all year. He’s still a rookie. He’s still only played three games, but he’s continuing to grow and I think for him it’s going to be that continued confidence as he builds that up. He’s got the speed. He’s got the athleticism. He’s got what it takes. The more he gains experience and he starts to see the things more quickly and more clearly, he’s going to continue to grow and be a very good player.”
What do you like about how the team has bounced back and moved on from a difficult loss?
“It was a very difficult loss, obviously. A very good football team on the road. Obviously, would have loved to come away with that one, but you watch the film, you learn from it, you grow from it, you take away the things that you can take away from it and you turn the page. It’s the National Football League. There’s another very, very good football team coming in here this week and we want to make sure we put our best foot forward.”
What’s your personal feeling on how things have happened with people kneeling or standing and all that’s happened surrounding the anthem?
“I think it’s everybody’s right to have whatever opinion and feeling that they’d like to have. That’s each individual’s right. That’s what’s great about this country, is that everybody has the freedom of speech. I think that I can speak to what I’ve seen recently in the last month or so and the incredible nature of people coming together and the unity that people showed in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, in the midst of Hurricane Irma, everybody in Puerto Rico helping out. I mean, it’s incredible to see what people do when they come together for a common cause. And, obviously, it’s a very difficult time in our country. There’s division, but I think that – I can only speak to what I’ve personally seen in the last month, and that’s people of all races, of all ethnicities, of all backgrounds, of all financial situations, coming together to help each other out, and I think that that has been such an incredible thing for me to witness and it also gives a great amount of hope, in my eyes. So, I think that those are the types of things we have to build off of. I think there’s obviously a lot of things that, conversations have been started and it’s great. And I think that the more we can come together and the more we can be unified, the better off we’re going to be as a country.”
What’s your personal feeling on kneeling or standing during the anthem and what that message can be?
“I think that, obviously, our whole team chose to stand together and lock arms, and what it does is it shows unity. I mean, we care about each other. An NFL locker room is one of the most diverse places you’ll find. There’s people from all different backgrounds, there’s people from all different family situations, there’s people from all over the country. I think that the one thing that I know is that we all care about each other and we all care about the issues and the values that each person deals with and each person holds near and dear to them. So, I think it sparked some great conversations. I think that it’s opened people’s eyes. And I think that, the one thing I know is that I love every guy in that locker room and when we stand up and we lock arms together, it’s because we truly care about each other and we truly feel that bond with each other.”
Are you going to lock arms again this week?
“We haven’t spoken about it as a team. I would imagine so. I think it’s – I would imagine so.”
When OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney got in the end zone last week, you and a couple teammates were there with him and he pushed you all back to give him space. Did you have any idea what you were going to see next?
“I mean, I didn’t, then once he started I kind of figured out what he was going to do. But, I mean, that’s just exciting. That’s football at its finest. Scoring a defensive touchdown, for us, it’s the most exciting thing you can possibly do. So, that was awesome, it was great and hopefully we have many, many more of those and we can celebrate them all day long.”
When you see DE Christian Covington, OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney and OLB Whitney Mercilus doing what they’re doing, has your confidence level in the guys around you changed over time?
“I think I’ve always had confidence in them. I think that we’re really comfortable with each other. I think that we have a really good understanding of how each guy plays the game and how we can all help each other out the most and I think that it’s an extremely unselfish group. We don’t care who gets the play. We don’t care who gets the sack. We don’t care who scores a touchdown. We’re all excited to see team success and so, there’s situations where maybe it’s JD (Jadeveon Clowney) taking on a double team and somebody’s coming free off the edge or on Gilly’s (Marcus Gilchrist) sack up the middle, JD – nobody will ever see it, (but) JD took on a double team right there to take a blocker off of Gilly coming straight up the gut. JD’s not going to get any credit, it’s not going to show up on the stat sheet, but he took on that double team and we got a forced fumble out of it. Unfortunately, it falls right back in their hands but those are the type of things that may not always show up on the stat sheet, but we have guys all over the field doing things like that. That’s what team defense is really about and that’s when you become successful, when that guy taking on a double team doesn’t care he’s not getting the credit because the team is getting successful because of it.”
Did the guys fun of OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney the week before for getting tackled by Bengals QB Andy Dalton?
“I did. I know I did. I mean, he’s like the fastest guy in the world and he got tackled by a quarterback. Yeah, absolutely. I think he rectified it this week though, so there’s no making fun of him this week.”
Can you give us an update on your foundation and the funds raised for Hurricane Harvey relief?
“I’ve personally – one of the things I really wanted to do myself was personally speak to and meet with each organization that we’re going to be working with. So, I’ve been meeting, having the calls and meeting with them, and obviously, being in a full-time football season, Tuesday is really my day to do that. So, over the last two weeks it’s been sit-down meetings in-person with some of the organizations, it’s been phone calls. Again, just making sure that I do it, all my due diligence and do my due justice because, I mean, it’s $37 million. I just want to make sure that I’m doing it all the right way and that we take our time and do it right, but we’re definitely getting there and as soon as I have the exact final plan, I will definitely let you guys know.”
Did you bring anyone in to help you with this?
“I have a really good team of core people around me, so yeah, there’s a bunch of people. It’s my normal team plus a couple people, but it’s not – that’s what’s beautiful about it, it’s all volunteer people who are donating their time to help me out and making sure that we do this thing right. The one thing, like I said, is I want to do is make sure that I was in every single conversation and meeting because people are trusting me in this situation. I want to make sure that I’m personally ensuring that it’s being done the right way.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH TITANS HEAD COACH MIKE MULARKEY
Have you had to make sure that Titans QB Marcus Mariota is smarter with running the football at the NFL level as opposed to when he was in college?
“Maybe not. We feel good about him running. I’ve had a couple quarterbacks that could run like him. Yeah, you want to be smart. Definitely want to be smart. (He) took an unnecessary hit last week on the sideline, obviously about as illegal as they come. (We’d) like to be smarter, but you wouldn’t expect to be hit like that, either. But no, there’s no restrictions with him. We feel confident and I’m not sure how they (Houston) feel on that side, but I know we feel confident getting him out of the pocket and running him.”
And you trust his instincts and want him to slide when he can?
“Yeah, in most cases he does. Again, unfortunate what happened last week. He’s been really good about taking care of himself. Really good.”
With him getting hurt last year and the importance and value of quarterbacks in the NFL, do you value them differently than you do at the lower levels?
“I mean, he got hurt in the pocket. I’ve seen multitudes more quarterbacks get hurt in the pocket than out of the pocket just because you can protect yourself out of the pocket. It’s tough sitting in there when you can’t see them coming.”
Can you talk about how impressive your running game has been so far?
“We feel good about it. We feel like we’re a balanced offense. I think people think that’s what we rely on, is the run game, but if you break down numbers over the year, in three games we’ve played, we’re pretty balanced in regards to throwing it on first and second down and running the football, which I think is what I think it takes to win in this league. We’ve done some good things in the second half. We’ve played some very good fronts. We’re playing another one this week. I think our coaches do a good job of scheming up our run game. We’re unique in the way we do some things.”
What are the challenges of the Texans’ front seven?
“Well somewhere along the line, somebody’s going to be one-on-one with those guys and we’ve got to block them. There’s no ifs, ands or buts, you’ve got to block the guy. And they do a good job, Mike (Vrabel) does a good job of trying to create some things that there could be mismatches. We’re going to do some things that we feel like can counter that. But yeah, at some point in the game, they’re going to have to block these guys one-on-one and that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
Does having a mobile quarterback on your own team help in preparation for Texans QB Deshaun Watson?
“I think it does. Marcus (Mariota) didn’t practice much in the offseason because of the prior injury, but the guys that have been here have been around him when he has (practiced), and we do a lot of things that are competitive periods. Even today we will. So, they get a lot of work trying to stop him from running, whether it’s designed or it’s a broken down play and he’s just extending it. They get plenty of work with it. I think it helped last week that we had to prepare for Russell Wilson and to have somebody very similar to him coming that can extend plays this week.”
How difficult is it for a defense to play a quarterback who extends plays to throw the ball?
“Well, it’s very important. We just played one of the best in the NFL, a Super Bowl quarterback that has made a living and kept his team consistently winning year after year just from his ability to extend plays. So, we had a good chance to practice it a lot last week, so it’s not like this is the first day today. We’ve had some work on it.
What do you see from Titans Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau in terms of creativity and the things he can do to make things tough for a young quarterback?
“Well, he’s very intelligent. Still very passionate about this game. Very smart with game planning particulars, trying to take advantage of either a weakness or how to stop a strength on an offense. He knows when to push the right buttons with these guys and they respect him and play their hearts out for him.”
How does Titans Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau physically keep up at his age?
“Well, he doesn’t sleep in the office and actually none of my coaches sleep in the office. I’ve never slept in the office in 23 years and the day I do, I’ll be done. It is grinding, it is very grueling. Dick knows how to pace himself. He’s been in the league for 59 years. He knows his restrictions and his timeframe of what he needs to do when he’s in here and everything’s all work when he is in here. He operates with the staff all kind of functioning around him. He’s been doing it a long time. He doesn’t need my help.”
Do you ever think, ‘Jeez, this guy is 80 years old?’
“No, I don’t. I don’t think anybody does. I really don’t. You would not know that.”
What do you see from the Texans’ front seven in terms of having a lot of people who are very difficult to block?
“Again, Mike Vrabel came in there, he didn’t try to reinvent the wheel. He had the number one defense and he’s going to let them play the scheme that they all know. They’ve been together now for a few years, they got J.J. (Watt) back. It’s a matter of being able to block them. Whether it’s the run game or – they do a lot of movement. They’re hop-around guys, they stunt the line. They do a lot of things, things that we’re preparing for. Just the scheme on top of having good players run it is a difficult part.”
Does the indoor NRG Stadium environment cause difficulties for opposing teams?
“Indy (Indianapolis) as well. Yeah, it’s loud but typically, the opposing stadiums – I don’t know if the dome creates any more problems. The guys at the end of the line of scrimmage, the tight ends, tackles, just typically are the guys that struggle regardless of if it’s indoors or outdoors if it’s a good home crowd that supports the team.”
How important is it to get a win on the road at the division champions to get to where you want your team to be?
“Well, I mean it’s pretty evident we learned a lesson last year. Nobody had more wins than us in the division, we just didn’t have enough. I mean, not in our division but I’m saying record-wise. But we didn’t have enough in the division and Bill’s (O’Brien) done a good job of winning games in this division, and that’s made the difference of why they’ve won it the last two years, just the record of being in the division. So, we understand that. Tough lesson learned for us last year but it’s still early this year. Our guys understand what it takes.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH TITANS QB MARCUS MARIOTA
What kind of advice would you give Texans QB Deshaun Watson in terms of being a running quarterback?
“Just be himself. Don’t stray away from what’s gotten you to this point and just continue to make plays. I think he’s done well so far and hopefully he’ll have a bright career in front of him.”
Have you had to change the way you run as a quarterback in the NFL because of bigger and stronger defenders?
“No, not really. You don’t want to stray away from what’s made you the player that you are. I think if you play within the system, do your best to do what the coaches ask of you and just play your game, you’ll find some success.”
Does it feel like running quarterbacks like yourself and Texans QB Deshaun Watson are changing the narrative on what can make a successful quarterback in the NFL coming from college?
“I don’t know. I mean, that’s up to other people to define. I think for all of us, we just want to come in and try to make an impact and be the best players that we can be for our teams. I don’t think it really matters what system you come from in college. I think if you are determined and you believe in the system that you’re playing in (in) the league, you can make it work.”
You and Texans K Ka’imi Fairbairn played soccer together. What do you remember of him?
“Yeah, I grew up playing soccer against Ka’imi and all through high school as well.”
Are you proud to see Texans K Ka’imi Fairbairn succeed as an NFL kicker?
“Yeah, super excited. I mean, it’s always nice to see a local boy do well and I’m happy for him. I hope he continues to play well.”
To avoid injuries, what are you trying to do to protect yourself more?
“Honestly, I can’t think like that when I’m out on the field. I think if you worry about getting injured or worry about getting hurt, you play slow, you don’t play like yourself. I don’t change my mentality. Every week I just go out there and try to be the best player that I can be for my team and just go out and execute to the best of my ability.”
Was there any player that you look up to with a similar playing style?
“Really, I just focus on being the best player that I can be. Obviously you watch guys growing up. You try to apply some of the good things that they do in their game to yours. But really, I just try to make myself the best player that I can be to make an impact for my team.”
Do you have any memories of Hall of Fame QB Steve Young?
“No, not really, to be honest with you.”
Hall of Fame QB Steve Young was a prototype player of what you do.
“Right, and I think Steve was an incredible player, obviously a Hall of Famer. But I think his ability to effect a defense, whether it’s running or throwing, was relatively new and I think it kind of opened the door for guys like myself.”
As a quarterback, how do you handle the week of prep going against a talented front seven?
“It all comes down to communication, making sure everyone is on the same page, whether it’s in the run game or the pass game and just going out there and executing. You can’t focus on those guys. I mean, you really just have to play your system, do what the coaches are asking you to do and hopefully just go out there and execute.”
Can you speak to the energy fans bring to NRG stadium?
“It is a tough place to play. I think when you have a crowd that can affect communication, affect how things are going pre-snap, it does make it tough. Going into this game, it’s going to be a challenge but we’ll do our best to over-communicate and make sure everyone’s on the same page.”
Have you ever practiced sliding?
“Yeah. In college, actually it was my second year in school, the baseball coaches came out and worked with me and kind of taught me some of the things to slide. For me, it’s a process. I never really slid until I got to college. I was thankful that the baseball coaches took some time out to help me out with that.”
Do you play more conservative while running the ball in the NFL compared to college?
“No, that necessarily the way I think.”