Head Coach Bill O’Brien
Defensive Coordinator Mike Vrabel
WR Will Fuller V
WR DeAndre Hopkins
OLB Brennan Scarlett
Conference Call with Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano
HEAD COACH BILL O’BRIEN
Can you talk about the Astros winning the World Series last night?
“Obviously that was awesome. A world championship for the City of Houston, that’s a great thing. I texted A.J. (Hinch) congratulations. That’s a great night for Houston. Great day for Houston.”
Does the Astros winning the World Series make you daydream about what it might be like to bring a championship to Houston?
“No time to daydream. Time to dream about how we’re going to move the ball and try to stop the Colts. We know it’s a football city, though. We work very hard to try to bring a championship here to Houston.”
You’ve been excited about the Astros for a long time, what has watching their run been like for you as a contemporary to Astros Manager A.J. Hinch?
“It’s been really fun to watch him manage that team, to watch those guys. The thing that struck me about that team, especially like last night and in the 13-12 game, was just the fun that they’re having, the competitiveness, the fun. You look at (José) Altuve. The TV does a great job of the close up shots of those guys just smiling. It seems like it’s a real close bunch of guys, and that’s what it’s all about, when you can win a championship with a real tightknit group of guys. I think it’s pretty cool. And I’ve been to, like you said, I’ve been to about 10 games over the years that I’ve been here and it’s a great feeling for our city.”
Did you talk to your players about the Astros and the correlation to your situation?
“I haven’t yet. At times I have, but not today, I didn’t. It was more about, we got so much to cover today, so I didn’t get to it today. But, yeah, at times – they’ve been over to our practice. (Carlos) Correa was over here and (José) Altuve, I met him at a game, he came to a game last year. So, there’s definitely a bond there.”
When you talk about the importance of fun, how do you as a coach try to inject some of that into the locker room?
“I think you still – it is a balance. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. There’s a business side to things, obviously. There’s a time where you have to have serious focus, especially on the practice field. But, I think there’s time to have fun. We have our share of laughs around here, we really do. We have good meetings but we interject sense of humor from the players and from the coaches. I think it’s important to do that, to be able to laugh at yourself. In order to lead people, you have to be able to do that. So, we definitely have some of that. But, I think when it’s time to go to work, these guys go to work.”
What was your reaction to the news that Colts QB Andrew Luck is done for the year?
“I didn’t know that. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Andrew (Luck). Great competitor. I’m sure he’ll be back. It’s probably tough for him this year, obviously going through that, but I’m sure he’ll be back.”
Can you talk about RB Lamar Miller and the kind of season he has put together?
“Yeah, for two years now he’s made big contributions. He’s a tough runner. He’s gotten key yards for us. He’s caught the ball well out of the backfield for us. He’s a productive guy. He’s a pro. He doesn’t say too much. He works very hard. He shows up every day, never misses anything, pays attention in the meetings. Smart player. Good with the protections. He’s a very valuable part of our offense.”
Do you anticipate RB D’Onta Foreman playing more this week than he did last week?
“Yeah, he did a good job. He had a good day today and he was good yesterday.”
Have you noticed that RB Lamar Miller has gotten better in the passing game?
“Look, he’s always been able to catch the ball and he’s always been a good protector. So, I think maybe we’re using him a little bit more in the passing game than we did last year, maybe that’s the deal. So, as far as getting better, I thought he was good from the day he got here. So, like I said, he’s a good protecting back and he’s caught the ball out of the backfield well for us, too.”
How is TE C.J. Fiedorowicz progressing and do you think he’ll be able to come off IR next week?
“Yeah, I think there’s a good chance that he would be ready to go for the Rams game.”
Do you think T Chris Clark will be ready to go this Sunday?
“I think he will be. He’s trending towards that.”
How was your visit with the military on the field at practice today?
“It was awesome. I’m in a little bit of a rush and I apologize to them for that, but our players stayed out there. I stayed out there for a little bit. Any time we have Salute to Service Day and all those military members come out here, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. They’re sacrificing for us and they sacrifice so that we can coach and play football. I mean, that’s a pretty cool thing. It’s always great to see them. I love when they come to practice.”
How has Colts QB Jacoby Brissett grown as quarterback since you guys played him last year in Week 3 against the Patriots?
“I think experience. I think all the experience that he’s had, whether it was in New England, obviously against us he had success. I think any time you’re backing up Tom Brady, that’s going to help you. You’ve been in the meeting room with him for a couple years. And then all the experience that he’s had here in Indianapolis. It’s a different system, but you can tell he’s comfortable in it. He’s getting the ball to the right guys, T.Y. Hilton being the No. 1 target there, he’s doing a good job of getting the ball to him. He runs the running game, he’s directing the protection. So, he looks comfortable to me and looks like a veteran player.”
How has Colts Jacoby Brissett grown as a quarterback since the last time you played him?
“I think experience. I think all the experience that he’s had, whether it was in New England, obviously against us he had success. I think any time you’re backing up Tom Brady that’s going to help you, you’ve been in a meeting room with him for a couple of years. And then all the experience that he’s had here in Indianapolis. It’s a different system, but you can tell he’s comfortable in it. He’s getting the ball to the right guys, T.Y. Hilton being the number one target there. He’s doing a good job of getting the ball to him. He runs the running game, he’s protecting the protection, so he looks comfortable to me and looks like a veteran player.”
What does it say about the Patriots drafting of quarterbacks that they’ve traded two backups who are in line to be starters this season?
“We’ve seen that before. I think they do a great job of coaching, I think they do a great job of scouting and when those guys get their chance to play, a lot of those guys have played well. With Jacoby (Brissett) and when Jimmy (Garoppolo) was there and he had to step in for Tom (Brady), he played well. Now he’s in San Francisco and we’ll see how it goes there but, yeah, I think that Josh (McDaniels) and Bill (Belichick) – any time you’re in a meeting room with Tom, I think if you’re willing to go in there and listen and learn, you’re going to come out of it a better quarterback.”
Is T Julién Davenport your swing tackle now?
“He’s been a real pleasant surprise for us. I think that coming from Bucknell, like you said, you wouldn’t imagine this guy being able to play right away but look, he’s played tight end for us, he’s gone in there and played a little bit of tackle for us. He could start some. He is a swing tackle, he can play left and right but I think you may see him in there eventually as a starting left tackle. He’s got great size, great length, smart guy, very tough. I think he’s really doing a great job in the weight room. He’s trying to change his diet, he’s trying to do things to acclimate himself to pro football. I think he’s a real, real focused kid.”
It seems like QB Deshaun Watson has yet to have an entirely bad game. How is it possible for such a young player to not have a bad game yet?
“I think that the one thing that he was born with – and you give his mom a lot of credit obviously the way that he was raised – but nothing really phases him, if that makes sense. If something goes wrong, maybe he makes a mistake, he doesn’t dwell on it. He’s able to think about it for a second, learn from it, he does learn from it. The pick-six that Earl (Thomas) got on him was basically a robber coverage and he looked at the picture, he said, ‘OK. Next time that comes up I’ve got to look somewhere else.’ And boom, we turned the page and I think the next drive we went down and scored. I think that he does a great job at a young age in this league of, like you said, being able to compartmentalize and being able to turn the page and not dwell on the fact that he made a mistake, and I think that’s going to be something that carries him throughout his career.”
Have you had to learn how to not dwell on losses too?
“He’s (Deshaun Watson) better at it than me. I think as you get older and you’re a coach, you never get over losses. I always say this, I know it sounds terrible, but a little piece of you dies when you lose as a coach. I think the players really, I’m telling you, it’s brutal, but the players, they’re resilient. They get over it and he’s a great example of that. Like I said, he really does a great job of learning from it. He doesn’t forget about it. He learns from it. He figures, ‘OK, what did I do there?’ And then he moves on to the next play.”
Have you seen other quarterbacks struggling after they throw an interception and it snowballs into more mistakes?
“Sure. Most people do. You think about mistakes that you’ve made and you just can’t believe you made that mistake and it’s those quarterbacks that play at a high level that have that ability to have enough confidence in themselves that however they handle it, ‘That wasn’t me. I’m not going to do that again. I’m moving on to the next play.’ That’s the mentality he has.”
Is it an ideal situation to have a player like QB Deshaun Watson who learns so quickly?
“Yeah. I mean, I remember I said this about three weeks ago – there is no correlation between good coaching and bad players. When you have a good player, that means you’re probably going to have a chance to be a good coach.”
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR MIKE VRABEL
What have you guys done to try to adjust to not having DE J.J. Watt and OLB Whitney Mercilus, specifically when it comes to the pass rush?
“I think everything goes together. We talk about playing defense, 11 guys, team defense. And so, if you want to add more guys to the rush, you take more guys out of coverage. And we understand that, so I think there’s a fine line. We have to try to find a way to affect the quarterback, and sometimes that’s with coverage, sometimes that’s with the rush pattern. So, I think that sometimes you get worried about the quarterback scrambling and maybe some things of that nature. So, if they don’t scramble, they just sit back there and they launch it.”
Where do you think an improved pass rush can come from?
“Well, I think we have to play good first- and second-down defense. I think we have to understand it starts with stopping the run. And then we have to transition rush. We talk about play-action pass transition rush. And then we get to third down, and we just have to execute our third-down package, which essentially is rushing and covering and mixing up those two things.”
What did you think of OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney’s performance on Sunday?
“As long as he stays disruptive and he’s into it, which he was, he did all the things we asked him to do. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough.”
What did you think of CB Kevin Johnson’s performance in his first game back since his injury?
“I think like a lot of guys, we lost the game. So, it wasn’t good enough for anybody. It wasn’t good enough playing, it wasn’t good enough coaching. But, it’s good to have Kevin (Johnson) back out there. He’s competitive. I think you can see that. I was proud of the way that he came back. I think he gave up a completion in the redzone, the very next play was a fade to Jimmy Graham. He challenged, he competed, he stayed square and broke the pass up. So, that’s one thing I know we can count on Kevin for, is being competitive and flying around.”
You have had several shootout games this season with the offense scoring a high number of points. Does that change things for the defense with the scoring happening so fast and often?
“Well, I wish it didn’t. I wish we would get out there and get some stops on third down. You look at the other day, JD (Jadeveon Clowney) gets a strip-sack and the ball goes 20 yards forward and it ends up being like a 20-yard completion. So, at some point, we’re going to strip-sack the ball and we’re going to pick it up and we’re going to score a touchdown. And so, you’d rather not sit there and trade touchdowns. That’s not our goal. Our goal is to stop them and get off the field on third down. Did a nice job on sudden change. They got the ball on the eight yard line. We played a bunch of redzone stops. So, it’s in there and we can do it and we stopped them. We stopped the run and then they tried the fade and then we got a penalty and went back. So, we just kept lining up and guys kept playing and ultimately we held them to a field goal.”
Do you feel like you’re close to improving on that?
“It’s just consistency. I talk to the guys about consistency. There’s so many good plays, so many plays that they hand the ball off and it’s negative yardage plays or it’s great stops in the run. Two guys beat somebody on a rush and (Russell) Wilson’s able to avoid the pressure and throw it downfield. I think that’s just how it was. And it’s just being more consistent and finishing.”
Some of the touchdown passes have been against guys that are regarded as some of the best quarterbacks in this league. What do you tell someone who’s not a Pro Bowler or hasn’t been one, it’s a little bit more like the usual standard of success?
“Well, I think regardless of the opponent, we understand there’s going to be great players at every position. It’s the National Football League. There’s going to be good players, good quarterbacks, good linemen, good backs. Everybody’s got good skill players. So, every week’s a new challenge, and you have to understand what this team does, what their bread and butter is, how they may mix things up, how they may change things. So, for us this week, it’s all about (Jacoby) Brissett and (Frank) Gore and (Marlon) Mack and obviously (T.Y.) Hilton and (Jack) Doyle, right on down the line.”
Even though they haven’t gotten the results they want, it seems like the Colts still have some good personnel.
“Sure. I mean, everybody does. That’s what happens. You surround yourself with a group of guys that you can put in different spots, in speed spots and guys that make plays on the ball and a great downhill runner and a guy that can change a pace and it seems to be what everybody’s doing. So, they all have them.”
WR WILL FULLER V
How excited does it make you that Head Coach Bill O’Brien said this offense can get even better?
“Very excited. We’re just about midway through the season so there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We’re doing pretty good on offense so that means a lot.”
Did you surprise yourself by how fast you came back from injury and started producing in a big way?
“I wouldn’t say it surprised me. I’m just out there playing hard and I’m just happy the ball’s coming my way. That’s all I can say about. Hopefully the ball will keep coming my way and I just keep making plays for my team.”
How have you improved your hands so much since last season?
“Just caught a lot of balls.”
Do you see the improvement in yourself?
“Yeah, I guess so. Like I said, I’m just out there playing fast and when the ball comes my way, I’m just trying to make a play on the ball.”
Can you talk about the way you’ve been able to catch so many touchdowns on so few targets?
“Just taking advantage when my number’s called. OB’s (Bill O’Brien) doing a good job, and Deshaun (Watson) too, just spreading the ball out. Everybody’s getting touches. I’m just excited that half the time I catch the ball it’s a touchdown. If I keep that up, it’s great for the team. Hopefully I can keep it up.”
Did you watch the Houston Astros win the World Series last night?
“Yep, I watched them. It’s good for the city. I’ve only been in Houston for two years so I don’t know the background around Houston sports that much, but I’m just happy that we won it.”
Can you describe how fun this offense is right now?
“It’s a lot different than last year. We have a lot of moving parts. Like you said, it’s fun. It’s fun to play with Deshaun (Watson). When he comes in the huddle, like I always say, he has his own swag. I feel like our offense has changed a lot since he’s been here.”
Head Coach Bill O’Brien said QB Deshaun Watson throws a very catchable ball. What does that mean from a receiver’s perspective?
“It’s easy to catch. The way it comes off his hand, for me – I can’t really explain it. It’s hard to explain it unless you play receiver. It’s just easier to catch.”
Would you say it’s the easiest to catch out of all the quarterbacks you’ve played with?
“Yeah, I would say so. Definitely.”
WR DEANDRE HOPKINS
Can you speak to how WR Will Fuller V compliments your skillset?
“He can do some things that I can. The guy runs a 4.2, man. Not a lot of receivers in the NFL run a 4.2, so that skillset alone I feel like helps this offense and helps me out.”
What does it mean to have a high quality receiver in WR Will Fuller V play opposite of you and open things up for you?
“It feels good to have help. I remember Andre (Johnson) was here when I first got here and it kind of feels the way same with Will being here to help me out. He can do some things that I can’t do on the field and I can do some things that he can’t do, so I feel like we complement each other’s game very well.”
How different does this season feel from last year?
“I don’t really like talking about last year. That was last year. It’s a new team, a lot of new players in here but from what we’re doing so far this season, we know the wins will come if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
How exciting is it to hear Head Coach Bill O’Brien say that this offense can get even better?
“That’s what we practice. We practice to make every play perfect. That’s harder said than done but that’s the way we practice and that’s our mindset when we go out there every down.”
Is it pretty cool for both you and WR Will Fuller V to have seven touchdown receptions and have excellent production?
“It is. We know us doing that is going to help this team win, and that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. Whatever Will and myself can do to help this team get wins, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Do you feel that having QB Deshaun Watson and WR Will Fuller V on this offense allows you to test yourself and see how good you really can be?
“I’m always going to push myself. I don’t really need somebody opposite of me to push me. That’s just the mindset that I have every time I step on the field, to be the best and push myself to be better than any receiver in this league. But to have a guy like Will over there making the plays he (makes), it gives me a little excitement when he goes and does something. When I come back on the field, of course I want to come out here and do the same thing and help this team.”
Do you think you’ve been a mentor to WR Will Fuller V?
“Yeah, I think so. He’s steadily asking questions even still to this day even though we’re tied for seven touchdowns, and that’s the thing I like about him. He’s still learning.”
Are you and WR Will Fuller V in a friendly competition with each other and try to score more touchdowns than the other?
“No, we don’t. No, no competition.”
Did you watch the Houston Astros win the World Series last night?
“I did. It was a good game. Very much needed championship for this city, of course. Those guys, I felt like the work they put in, the team that they’ve been building over the past few years, they deserve it.”
Can the Texans feed off the Houston Astros winning the World Series?
“We play a totally different sport, but I know some of those guys over there, (Carlos) Correa and Dallas (Keuchel). They’re good friends of mine, so of course. We’re professional athletes in the same city. It’s always a challenge to try to get a championship.”
OLB BRENNAN SCARLETT
What is the key from bouncing back defensively?
“As I’m sure you’ve heard, it’s kind of the ‘next man up’ mentality. We continue to prepare, as backups, prepare like starters and obviously the starters prepare like starters and like professionals. That’s what we continue to do.”
What are the keys for backups being ready to step in as starters?
“I’d say it’s just a matter of communication, getting out there and making sure we’re talking to each other. Especially having been out there, you up your communication and it helps everybody. It helps out with our keys and knowing what to do and that’s the key.”
Does the fact that Colts QB Jacoby Brissett beat you last year with the Patriots give you motivation to go out and beat him?
“I mean, we know Brissett is a talented guy. He’s mobile and he’s a talented quarterback. We know we have to do everything we can to rush and cover him and contain him and that’s what we plan to do.”
CONFERENCE CALL WITH COLTS HEAD COACH CHUCK PAGANO
What has it been like to have to go through the first half of the season without Colts QB Andrew Luck?
“Well, I think if you asked 31 other head coaches or anybody in the building, GMs, it’s hard. But, our guys have been great. They’re resilient, they persevere, they’ve been through circumstances before. We missed him for nine games in ’15 and guys have – it’s next man up and you rebound. But, not having your ‘guy’ guy, it’s difficult. But again, I credit our coaches, I credit our players for hanging in. Our record isn’t what we’d like it to be. We’re not where we want to be. But, you fight and you got to deal with it. And I hate it for Andrew (Luck). Everybody hates it, but you hate it for Andrew because he’s a top, top competitor. He’s a great player. We all know that. He worked his tail off to try to make this thing happen, and it just didn’t work out, but I guarantee you, he’ll be back. At some point he’s going to be back and he’s going to be out on the field and leading this organization and leading this football team. It stinks for everybody.”
Knowing how competitive Colts QB Andrew Luck is and how bad he wants to play, what’s it been like for him personally when you’ve been around him?
“Yeah, I mean, frustrating, because you want to wake up and be healthy, to wake up and be back on the practice field and in the meeting room and grinding and game planning and preparing. That’s what all the top competitors and great players love about this game, is the work and the preparation and the process and then going and competing and playing the game. And so, when you’ve done that your entire life and now that’s taken away from you, it’s like any ball player. It’s frustrating.”
How have you been able to use Colts QB Andrew Luck even though he can’t play? What has been his contribution to the team even though he can’t play?
“It’s just as it was in years past when he’s missed. It’s another set of eyes. He’s another coach on the field. He does a great job in between. He’s been – obviously, much of his time’s been spent on the rehab process and he’s been in and out a little bit, but when he’s here, he’s engaged and he’s in that meeting room and he’s helping Jacoby (Brissett) and helping the other quarterbacks in there. Like I said, another set of eyes. He’s been tremendous that way.”
Will Colts OLB John Simon be able to play this Sunday and what has he been able to do for your defense?
“He’s been awesome. He’s been outstanding ever since he stepped into this building. I mean, we knew on tape exactly what we were getting and he had given us fits going up against him. He’s been tremendous. Great leader. He’s tough and he’s physical and he meets the job description to a T as far as setting the edge in the run game and tearing off blocks and making plays and he’s good rushing the passer. He had a couple sacks before he went out, and he’s good in coverage. And so, he’s one of the catalysts on this defense and one of the reasons we’ve been able to play better run defense and get some pressure on the quarterback.”
How much does it help Colts QB Jacoby Brissett that he played against the Texans last year with the Patriots? Does his performance in that game give him confidence playing against a defense like the Texans?
“Absolutely. Again, the scheme is what it is. And again, you never know. They do such a great job. Mike (Vrabel) is running the deal now and Romeo (Crennel). We understand where they come from and what their tree is and what their background is. They do a phenomenal job of coaching there and they’ve got great players. I know they’re missing a couple key pieces, obviously two great players in (J.J) Watt and (Whitney) Mercilus, and missing Covi (Christian Covington) and a couple other guys, but they’re well coached, they play hard. Jacoby (Brissett), having seen that system and that scheme and the fronts and the coverages and the pressures that he’s going to see and that he has seen certainly will help him.”