Head Coach Robert Saleh, 1.5

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Opening Statement:

(Braxton) Berrios will not practice today, still day-to-day. Michael Carter is progressing well in the concussion protocol, expecting him back. (Sheldon) Rankins won’t practice today, that’s part of his normal regimen. GVR (Greg Van Roten) is a non-COVID illness today, so you’ll see him on the injury report. And then Jamison (Crowder) is back, Ashtyn (Davis) is back, Chuma (Edoga) is practicing today and then Elijah Moore will be off to the side getting some more work in, so we’re moving in that direction, so hopefully he takes another step today.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, with Elijah, one game left, probably going to be cold and miserable in Buffalo like it usually is. Is there any part of you guys as an organization that says is it worth it putting him out there for one game, let him just go into the offseason?

Right now, it’s about just getting him healthy. Once we get to that point, then we’ll make that a discussion. But the full intent is to get him out there on Sunday.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: I’m sorry, can you update us on (Braxton) Berrios? What’s his situation? What does he have?

He has a quad, he has a quad contusion that he’s battling through, so we’re just using today as a maintenance day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to loosen that thing up. Not overly concerned.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, are you expecting Quinnen (Williams) back this week?

Yeah, he’ll be back at practice today. Quinnen, (Tyler) Kroft, Tevin Coleman, will all be back.

 

Rich Cimini, ESPN: Since I asked about Braxton, could you just describe his evolution this season? He obviously played in the beginning because Jamison was dealing with his injury, but then he kind of faded away for a little bit and now he’s back. Do you think maybe, how has he impressed the coaching staff? Do you think maybe the staff was a little too slow to realize how much of an impact he could make?

I don’t know about slow, Rich, but what I do know is he’s very, very smart. He can play every position. That trust and reliability aspect of his game is obviously there, but what he’s really carved out a role in is the fact that, because he’s so smart and multiple, usually if you got a guy doing all the little gadget stuff, they usually struggle to run routes, like it’s a lot of information that’s happening for these guys and he’s able to do it all and he does it pretty darn well. He’s a grinder, he’s gotten better every week, he’s really honed in, he’s really grinded in on the offense and knows everybody’s detail, everybody’s job and just having him out there has been, the fact that he can run normal routes along with the gadget stuff, along with all the jet sweeps, he’s definitely somebody that opposing defenses have to pay attention to.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, all the things you just talked about, how important is it to bring someone like that back as you try to build this thing?

You know, we’ll talk about it at the end of the season. Obviously, we love Braxton. I’ve always sat up here and said it’s our job as a coaching staff to make Joe Douglas’ job as hard as possible with regards to resigning people. Everyone knows how we feel about Braxton and we want him here, but all that stuff is for him. He’s part of that discussion too, so these are all things we’ll address in the offseason.

 

Greg Joyce, New York Post: I think Zach (Wilson) mentioned a few weeks just the trust that he has in Braxton and that kind of chemistry. What have you seen between those two just how they’ve kind of developed over the season?

It’s all about trust. Quarterback needs to know you’re going to be exactly where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there. He needs to know that when he’s breaking the huddle, he’s not trying to line you up. Quarterback has a lot going on in his mind, when he doesn’t have to worry about you because he knows you’re going to be exactly where you’re supposed to be pre-snap and post-snap, that trust factor, the timing, the rhythm, it is so big for a quarterback. That’s where all these receivers, what’s been so impressive with this entire group is with it revolving and guys injured and guys in-and-out of the lineup. Guys like Jeff Smith and DJ Montgomery and Keelan (Cole), they’ve been really, really strong with regards to being trustworthy and putting themselves where they need to be, both pre-snap and post-snap. To bring it back to Braxton though, for sure, he’s just been so consistent all season and he’s gotten nothing but better.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Robert, is there a player this year this year, I know there’s still a game left, but maybe somebody that you didn’t necessarily, or you’ve gotten more than you expected out of them or someone that’s even taken you by surprise? 

That’s a good one. There’s a lot of guys in terms of just from an unknown standpoint, right? We got such a young roster, so just trying to figure out who is going to come up. I know Bryce Huff, he went on IR yesterday, but he was a guy from OTAs, he’s a guy that definitely has a future with us. Braxton, I mean go back to Braxton, the way he’s carved out a role for himself and the way the offense has started to use him. Our young DBs have all stepped up and have been fantastic. I can spend all day going through some things, not that I’m surprised, Connor, but you never know, especially when you’re playing such a youthful group how they’re going to evolve, which ones will fold under the pressure, which ones will rise above the pressure. This group is littered with guys that have really exceeded expectations.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I know you and Joe, when you first got the job you guys talked about how you guys see players similarly and I’m sure you guys had a lot of philosophical discussions. How much now do you guys talk about the way you see players? I’m sure lately the whole conversation has been who do you have up for this week and who do you not have, but do you guys ever sit back and have philosophical discussions about personnel and kind of the way you see players?

Absolutely, you’re always talking personnel. It always comes back to, I think Joe and I see things the same. I think guys who love ball always maximize who they are as individuals. There’s a difference, there’s a difference between guys who love ball and guys who like what football brings up. There’s a huge difference, and they tell on themselves every day. It’s amazing, the guys who love ball find ways to absolutely maximize every fiber in their body. A guy like Braxton Berrios, go back to him, absolutely loves everything about football. He loves practice, he loves studying, he loves the rehab part, the training part, the game part, he loves everything, and because of it, you see a guy who gets better and a guy who has done everything he can to help this team win. Those guys are the ones that, and not that he lacks anything, but whatever limitations they may have, they absolutely overcome it with that love for football. Where on the flip side, you’ll see guys who are gifted who don’t really love ball as much never really reach their full potential and it’s like, well who’s back to you want to jump on? That’s just always the discussion.

 

(follow up) How hard is it, Robert, in free agency or in the drafts, if you have no one on your staff who’s ever had any hands-on experience with a player? How hard is it to know if a guy loves ball?

That is a really good question, Coz. You’ve just got to study. There’s a lot of work that gets put into it. From Zoom meetings to personal meetings to I think Joe’s staff is phenomenal with regards to how much they work on those guys and trying to figure out where they are from a character standpoint. But that’s a lot of the discussion and the evaluation part of it.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, obviously, Zach has cut down on the turnovers drastically. So, what’s been the biggest reason for that?

There are a couple things. It felt like his decision making, if you guys remember or recall in the first half of the year, we talked about his decision making, that it had been sound. He had been putting the ball going in the direction of where it needed to go. I think what you’re seeing is his timing is coming together, one. So, he’s really sped up his timing. Two, he’s really done a good job with accuracy. His accuracy over the last few weeks and getting the ball, I mean pinpoint, has been fantastic. So, he’s really coming along. The confidence level, the decision making, has always been there, but the timing, the rhythm, the eye placement, the tempo, getting the ball in a spot where only his receiver can catch it, has been very, very good. That would be the biggest reason why the turnovers have been cutdown.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: How much have you seen Mike LaFleur grow over the course of this year, from where he was those first couple of games and then kind of the transition he’s made to where he is now as a play caller?

He’s grown, I think we all have, including myself. But Mike’s done such a really nice job, him and his staff, from the run game and really starting to create an identity. All the preset motion and movement, I think the players have evolved, but his ability to just let it rip. And there’s still stuff that he’s learning. He self-scouts, he’s like, “Man, I didn’t realize I was doing this in this situation.” So, he is still not even scratching the surface of where I think he’s going to go with regards to really forming, taking what he’s learned his whole life from Kyle (Shanahan), his brother and Sean (McVay) and morphing this into his system and he’s already kind of taken that step and I think he’s going to continue to grow. It’s been fun to watch everybody in this building.

 

DJ Bien-Aime, New York Daily News: Robert, what’s been, as you mentioned that his accuracy has improved, what’s been the main reason for the accuracy improvement?

The biggest thing, DJ, is his tempo and footwork. We talked about it, when he came back, I talked up here and I said, ‘His tempo, his eyes, don’t over-analyze the play, just keep it simple. Have great tempo, get your eyes where they need to be, don’t over-analyze the play, just put it the ball where it needs to go.’ His tempo and his footwork have been so consistent which is why his pocket presence has elevated the way it has, where he has been able to exit the pocket, like he’s feeling the pocket a lot more. His eyes are downfield and he’s keeping his eyes focused on where it needs to be with regards to progression and then obviously, he’s tying his feet to everything. So, you’ll hear quarterback coaches talk and coordinators if you talk to Mike LaFleur, he’ll talk about how you read with your feet. You read coverage with your feet. You progress with your feet. So, getting his footwork tied to everything has been the biggest jump in why the accuracy has come back because his feet are firmly in the ground, his eyes are where they need to be and now he can just use all that arm talent which is what he was known for coming out of BYU and I think everybody’s really getting a glimpse of that. Some of the throws he made on Sunday, those are high-difficulty throws and he’s making about four or five “wow” throws every week that aren’t like where he’s scrambling and doing anything, it’s as a quarterback. It’s been fun to watch him grow.

 

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, what do you think is the most important thing you guys have accomplished this year, in the first year and you’ve been there and everything?

The biggest thing is laying the foundation of what we’re trying to build on. The foundation is everything. It’s been a rough stretch of time for this organization. One that you can’t truly sympathize with until you’re actually in it to understand how deep it runs from the fanbase, to the organization, to everybody that’s been a part of it. This is year one for me, I have no idea. But I promise you I do now, and I think our staff does and I think our players do and we embrace all of it. But, laying this foundation for this standard of what we’re trying to accomplish and the direction we’re trying to go and the things that we need to build on, based on what we’ve been able to build off of this year, things that we need to continue to build are so clearly evident. I think I speak for everyone that we’re not only excited for this game obviously, to really attack what’s going to be a really cool opportunity in Buffalo, playoff atmosphere, but obviously, the offseason also.

 

Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Speaking of that offseason, Robert, and I know we’ll probably talk to you a ton about this come combine and after the year and all those things. But, with the state of the way the roster is now and some of the players you guys are going to get off an injury and things like that, but do you anticipate this being or would you like this to be when you and Joe have your meetings a more aggressive offseason, than maybe what this team has had the last couple of years where it’s been a little bit more passive in free agency and things of that nature?

I don’t know, I’m going to punt that question, Connor, just because there’s so many things that still have to be discussed with regards to where we are, the self-scout stuff and to give you that answer right now, would be very premature.

 

Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what has C.J. Mosley meant to this team this year?

C.J. is awesome. You guys know how I feel about C.J. I know everyone saw that he was voted Team MVP, but I’ve made a comment before that he’s an All-Pro player and an All-Pro human. He’s one of the more thoughtful individuals. I think his locker room presence is phenomenal, his leadership is phenomenal, when he speaks, everyone listens, even though he doesn’t really speak that much. Just been a pleasure. For a guy who’s accomplished so much in his career, to have a new staff come in here and ask him to lose 20 pounds and he does it. To ask him to show up to OTAs and he does it. To ask him to adjust the way he’s played linebacker his whole career, he does it and he’s having a heck of a season. Not because of coaching, but because he’s an unbelievable football player and he works so hard at it. Credit to him and everything. He deserves every accolade he gets and I’m really happy he’s here.

 

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