Head Coach Robert Saleh, 10.12

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Opening statement: Injuries real quick – Jermaine (Johnson) is not going to practice today, he’s dealing with his ankle and he’ll be day-to-day and then Duane (Brown) is dealing with his shoulder. This is going to be a yearlong thing, so he’s limited. (Carl) Lawson’s dealing with an ankle, he’ll be limited, (C.J.) Mosley’s dealing with a hip, he’s limited, and Quincy (Williams) is going to make his return back to practice, he’ll be limited with his ankle. 

 Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: I’m sorry, Carl (Lawson)? 

He’s dealing with an ankle. He’s just limited, he’ll be fine. They’re all going to be fine.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Even Jermaine (Johnson)?

Day-to-day on him. He’s a little more serious.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: (Aaron) Rodgers obviously is the best quarterback you’ll face so far this year. What’s it’s like facing him you’ve done do it before and just some of the challenges he presents to you guys?

Hall of fame quarterback. He’s a special talent obviously. He gets the ball where it needs to go, he gets it there quick, can change the play at the line of scrimmage, he makes everyone around him better, he challenges you from a defensive standpoint to substitutions to everything, so, he’s obviously deserving of everything he’s gotten in his life, and he’s going to be a big challenge.

Connor Hughes, SNY: Are you excited at all to see how your team matches up with Green Bay? I mean you guys had the joint practices last year to now kind of see how much of a difference a year has made both with Zach (Wilson), but also with everyone else. 

Yeah, I do think we’re better than we were a year ago obviously, but it still comes back to us and it’s exciting just to be able to go out there and play a championship team, which is what they are a championship team, Hall of Fame quarterback, but it still comes back to us and preforming to the best of our ability.

Brian Costello, New York Post: Is this a step up for your defense, Robert? Not to take anything from what they’ve done lately, but they’ve played two rookie quarterbacks basically making their first NFL action for both of these two teams, now Aaron Rodgers?

Yeah, it’s always a step up when you play a Hall of Fame guy. They’re one of the better offenses in football, for any defense whether you have whatever you think you might have on defense it’s definitely going to be a challenge just because these guys just know how to win football games, and they know how to move the ball and all of that stuff, so it’s going to be a tremendous challenge to see what we can do to kind of get him off his spot.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: What sort of challenges do the running backs present?

They’re physical, extremely physical. They’re big, they’re fast, they do a really good job in the run game (Adam) Stenavich obviously, he’s the OC, but he’s been the O-line guy for a while, and they do as good of a job as anybody creating, from a schematic standpoint to get those guys in space where they’re rolling downhill and they’re a load to tackle. So, it’s a tremendous challenge especially when they put them both on the field at the same time.

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, being so close to Matt (LaFleur) can you, did you guys talk at all this week, do you talk trash since you’re so close, does any of that go on? 

No, simple phone call Monday, hey how are you doing, hope the trip was good whatever it was, and I’ll see him Sunday.

Connor Hughes, SNY: How often do you guys talk? Is that someone you talk to every week?

Almost every day. He’s like a brother.

Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: But not this week?

Not this week.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Did that all start at Central Michigan? 

At Central, yeah, so we were roommates together at Central when we were GA’s. We were in an office about the size of this platform, so he and I are pretty close.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Did you talk about one day maybe being together in the NFL, or did you talk about going against each other?

Back then it was just trying to get a job, right? We were GA’s at Central, so it was I don’t know if either one of us when we were together at Central in that small little office ever dreamed that it would be like this, so we’re very blessed, very fortunate, but no, I don’t know if we ever actually talked about it.

 Brian Costello, New York Post: What do you think next weekend’s like for Mike?

I think by now we’re all used to it. Matt’s been a head coach for, I think this is year four now. We’ve played him when we were in San Francisco, we played him when he was a coordinator at the Rams, so we’ve had a lot of overlap and I think by now we’re kind of numb to it.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: It has to be a little different, now that you’re a head coach, it has to be a little different though, right?

Maybe, I don’t know, I really, I haven’t thought about it honestly. Maybe Sunday, when I’m looking across, but just like playing Mike (McDaniel) last week and it was cool last week because you sit back and you kind of reflect and it’s like God, you’re at the point now where half the guys in the League you’ve crossed paths with them at some point and so close to a lot of these guys. So, with Matt (LaFleur), we’ve gone against each other so much through the years, whether head coach or not, we got a chance to compete with one another, like I said, I don’t know if I’m numb to it, but I haven’t really taken time to think about it.

Connor Hughes, SNY: When you got your head job, were you able to go to him for advice or was the situation totally different, I mean he walked into a team that was pretty much built out, whole team, quarterback, is there almost little take from him because of how different your situation was?

No, because there’s still the, from the administrative part of it, just being able to bounce ideas off of him and vice versa. He’s got a tremendous wealth of knowledge of going through all the administrative part, or handling the media or whatever, handling players, and different things that might arise. It might be different, but there’s still a lot of similarities when you’re running a team.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: You didn’t have a position in Houston at the time, but did you play any part in bringing him into the Houston? Were you involved in that?

I got his name to the desk, but he did the rest, he did the rest. There was a spot open, I walked into Kyle (Shanahan)’s office, I said, “Hey man, I got this dude, he was an offensive coordinator at Ashland.” I said, “He would be unbelievable.” It was one of those 20-20-20 jobs, you’re in your twenties, work 20 hours a day and get paid 20,000 a year. Coach (Gary) Kubiak, same thing, I was like just talk to him, he will grind and fortunately, he was ready to roll and from there it was, everything since then has been all him.

Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: You talked a lot about how Sauce (Gardner) has done against specific receivers, but how much of a test is it for guy like him going against a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers who is smarter in terms of maybe you mess up?

The thing that Aaron’s going to, you know the windows, you can have a tight window with Aaron and Aaron’s still going to find a way to get it in there. That’s the challenge, you can have coverage and if you think that you’re in a good spot, whether you’re in zone or whatever it is, Aaron’s going to find the hole to get it to him, so just completely be alert, don’t fall asleep on the down, don’t think that just because your body position will tell normal quarterbacks that this play is over, he’ll find a way to make you pay and just know that you are a rookie, he’s probably going to try and test you and just play your best and see what happens.

Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: How much does (Aaron) Rodgers miss (Davante) Adams?

Davante’s one of the best receivers in football, right? But I think the receiving core, they’ve got a bunch of young guys too and they’re very, very talented and you can tell with each passing week, they’re getting more and more comfortable with one another. They’re a really good group, they’re fast, they’re big, they’re dynamic. It’s still going to be a challenge for us with that group, obviously Davante’s Davante, but within this group you have a couple of guys that have a chance to be pretty damn good in this League.

John Pullano, New York Jets: What were your first impressions of their defense, on film and just checking on them?

Their d-line is for real. They’ve got a really, really good front and then obviously in the back end they’re very disciplined, I think Joe Barry does such a great job with that group. They’re very sound, they’re very disciplined, and like I said, that front, they get after it. Rashan Gary’s playing at a pro bowl level, so they’re pretty darn talented and well coached.

Connor Hughes, SNY: I mean no disrespect, but with the struggles that the team’s kind of endured over the last three, four, five, even more years. I mean a lot of teams around the League, and there were some players that there was kind of a stigma around you guys, that you were kind of like the homecoming opponent, you know what I mean? Like they would look past you or automatically chalk it up on the schedule as a win, with you guys now developing as quick as you are, and being 3-2 and having some of these young guys really have success, do you need to remind people or keep some of the young guys in here grounded or do you almost want to take that confidence and just run with it and let them say like no, keep going?

A little bit of both. I think confidence is contagious. I think our guys have deserved the right to feel good about themselves, but at the same time this League is very humbling, and it’ll take it away from you in a heartbeat. We still haven’t done anything yet. I think we’d be remiss not to reflect and appreciate what we’ve been able to accomplish to this point, but at the same time, you have to remind yourself, you’re still nothing in the grand scheme of things. Only one team in the League is happy at the end of the year, and the goal is to get to that point every year, but to do that, you’ve got to take it one week at a time and stay focused on the moment and attack those moments. I love our group, I’ve said it before, I feel like our locker room, a lot of internally driven individuals who just want to be their absolute best every single day and I do think they feed off one another and they play for one another, but I don’t know, I feel like we’re grounded. I feel like our group just wants to come out and play, and just have fun, so, it’s a fun group to be around and we’re still going to have our ups and downs, I mean there’s a lot of football left this season, but just got to take it one day at a time.

Brian Costello, New York Post: Back in June, I think it was, you said you don’t need Zach (Wilson) to be Tom Brady this year. Was Sunday what you had in mind? 14-21, 210 yards, he doesn’t turn the ball over, you have a good ground game, you have a good defense, and he does his part?

I think in two games, I feel what Zach has shown that against Pittsburgh in the fourth quarter, he looked like a guy who can put the team on his back, just sat in the pocket, got good protection, got the ball where it needed to go against Pittsburgh and then against Miami, we ran the ball really, really well and it was just more facilitating, getting the ball to where it needed to go, take care of everything you just said. I think that was such a maturation on his part. I thought the third and goal touchdown run was everything that you want out of your quarterback, where not the best play call in terms of they took it away, but Zach having the presence to go get the stick, go get the goal line. We saw all through training camp, felt like he was going to take a step and I’m going to speak the same thing about Zach, I still think he has a long way to go, right? He’s so much better than he was a year ago and I think he’s only going to get better as he continues to get reps; he hasn’t even played; how many starts has he had? 15. So, he hasn’t even played a full season yet. He’s only going to get better as the year goes and his career, it will be interesting to see how good he gets.

Connor Hughes, SNY: (follow up) How hard is that for a quarterback? Because I imagine when he was in high school, he could do almost whatever he wanted, same thing in college. To now, be able to accept the fact that it’s okay to not be the star every week, how hard is that for a quarterback to mentally be able to willing to do it, and then actually go out there and do that?

I don’t know if it’s hard because, I’ll mention Tom (Brady), the thing that made Tom great was that he got it to his playmakers, and his playmakers made plays, he was quick to get it to them and I think football is the ultimate team sport, so you look at Zach (Wilson) and it’s just ‘trust your teammates’. I think Aaron does an unbelievable job with it, Aaron Rodgers, he gets the ball to his team, to his players in space, and he gets it out quick and those guys will get four, five, break a tackle, and next thing you know it’s 10-15 and it takes all 11 to make a play work, and I think the great quarterbacks understand that and they get the ball where they need to get it as quickly as possible, and they trust that their playmakers will make plays for them.

Brian Costello, New York Post: A couple of controversial roughing the passer calls around the League this week, how do you handle that with the team? Do you show them those calls? Do you give them a warning that they might be calling this stuff now?

So, Dan Shamash, our situational coordinator, he does a presentation every Friday about the things that are happening around the League, and teaches everyone about the rules and how we handle things. I think he does a great job. Those plays will definitely be on the tape, in terms of what is the rule, what are they asking, what do they want to see. And sometimes, the refs are going to make mistakes too, they’re not going to be 100%. You want them to be, but they’re human, so you do your best to educate your players, and you do your best to get the quarterback down, in the manner that falls within the rules and whatever happens, happens.

Al Iannazzone, Newsday: When you met Matt LaFleur, he was a high school kid. You probably couldn’t imagine that he would be your first coordinator. What gave you the confidence that he could do this job?

Obviously, he was with Kyle (Shanahan) for a long-time, knock-on wood I’ve been a part of that offensive system 15 of the 20 years that I’ve been coaching, right? Being in San Francisco, and just watching how he turned into the pass game coordinator and just working with Kyle, and just his thoughts and his ideas. He’s every bit as deserving, I know you can call it ‘oh, you just hired a buddy’, he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t good at his job. He’s a very smart young man, he’s a very capable young man, he knows how to put the players in the best position possible for them to take advantage of all of their athleticism. He’s growing every single day too, I look at him very similar to when I was a first-time coordinator in terms of taking our Seattle system, branching off, and adding my flavor. I think he is doing the same thing and finding his niche and finding what he likes and what he wants to get done, and I think with each passing week, he’s only going to get better and better. You have to be a really smart, ego-free man to be able to continue to evolve and build, and I think he is every bit capable of that.

Connor Hughes, SNY: With Mike, when Matt (LaFleur) went to Green Bay, Mike didn’t go with him, and I don’t know if there was, we’ll talk to him tomorrow and be able to ask him, but was that a big thing for him to not necessarily be Matt’s brother, but stay with Kyle for another year, stay in San Francisco and develop into his own?

I’m going to let him answer that one, there’s a story behind that one, he can answer that one.