Head Coach Robert Saleh, 11.10
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Injuries real quick: (Tevin) Coleman, (Corey) Davis, (Shaq) Lawson, (Alijah) Vera-Tucker and (Zach) Wilson, they’ll all be limited in practice today. Coleman has a hammy, Davis has a hip, Shaq Lawson has a hamstring, Vera-Tucker is dealing with a sprained toe, but he should be good. And then, Zach, obviously, with the knee.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: Starting quarterback?
Mike is starting, Mike White.
(follow up) What went into that decision, can you just elaborate on that?
Same thing. We had a feeling on Monday with Zach’s knee that he’s not fully ready to go. Mike, obviously, got all his strength back. He feels good, no residual effects from Thursday, so we’re going with Mike.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: With Zach not all the way back, could that potentially linger into next week as well? Or do you guys feel really confident about next week?
We’ll see. It is a two-to-four-week injury, obviously. He’s trending in the right direction. We’ll see how he practices this week, which was always the goal, and see how he feels coming out of this week.
Brian Costello, New York Post: What will he do, Robert, in practice? Zach?
Everything. Individual, he’s going to run the show team, he’ll take reps with the offense, basically a normal practice for him.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Will he be activated? Will he be your backup this week, or do you just have to wait to see?
Probably going to roll with Joe Flacco on this one.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Why Flacco over Josh (Johnson), considering Josh played so well?
So, Josh, he’s been elevated from practice squad twice already. We’re dealing with a whole ton of injuries, so being able to get him to the 53, there’s a numbers game. And so, with Joe, it’s basically giving him an opportunity, too, and he is ready to go. He’s been studying his butt off for the past couple of weeks.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Do you feel like things will sort themselves out in terms of the quarterback, longer term, two-three weeks that you’ll know what to do and you’ll know what’s right? Or might things get a little weird if Mike continues to do well and Zach is ready?
So, I think it’s going to happen organically. If Mike does phenomenal like we think he’s going to do, that’s not weird, that’s awesome to me, in the sense that quarterback is a precious commodity in this league, and we feel like we’ve got four really good ones. To answer your question, I think it’ll all take care of itself, we just have to let it play out.
Al Iannazzone, Newsday: How do you handle that in terms of, everything has been about Zach for the most part, his development. But if Mike gives you the best chance to win, how do you handle that going forward?
First, you handle the things you’ve got control over and you just have to be cognizant of the entire organization. Joe (Douglas) and myself are committed to doing whatever is best for this entire organization and that includes every player in this organization. There’s always that commitment. There are 52 players on the roster, or 51 other players on the roster, and then practice squad and all that stuff. So, always sitting down, taking a deep breath, ignore all the outside noise and make the decision that’s best for the organization moving forward and the development of the entire team.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: You said it’s going to happen organically. In the NFL, there’s always different shades of gray, it’s never really cut and dry. So, by leaving it open ended with Zach, don’t you think you’re inviting some speculation if Mike continues to play well?
No, because it’s the same thing. If Mike is playing phenomenal football, it is what it is. You might call it a controversy or not, but I think I can pull up an article on every single one of you guys that has mentioned that the best thing for a young quarterback is to watch. So, there’s no harm in either way. We have the utmost confidence in Zach when he gets ready to play and he gets back on the football field that he’s going to do a phenomenal job. His talent is undeniable. There is a great amount of growth that can happen, whether he’s playing or not. Those are facts. Those are history proven throughout the history of time. Playing or not playing, you can get both done. At the end of the day, it comes down to what’s best for the organization and the team. That, I’m very confident will happen organically.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Isn’t that a complete reversal though, Robert, from what you guys have said since April, where Zach was going to be the guy. You walked in the door, and he was the guy, because you wanted to play him. You thought playing him was the way to get him experience. So is it saying now that watching him benefits?
There’s value in both. And I’ve always stood by that. There’s always going to be value in both. But you also don’t want to force one over the other. Mike has done a phenomenal job in presenting the ability where you’re getting good football out of the quarterback. So, it’d be one thing if you were throwing out a quarterback and he was just playing terrible and there’s nothing to learn from. It’s another thing when there’s a quarterback that’s giving you a clear blueprint on how this offense is supposed to be run in that regard. So, absolutely do I think that playing and getting those reps, absolutely. Do I think watching good ball is vital, absolutely. So, it goes back to the old saying, if you’re a golfer and you’re watching a bad golf swing during the course of the round, your swing is going to continuously get worse. So look away from the bad golfer. It’s the same thing. So, we feel like Mike has proven throughout OTAs and training camp that he’s capable. Did a wonderful job during the game, did a wonderful job in the first quarter of that Indianapolis game. So, he’s putting on good tape, so there’s also that obligation. If he’s playing well and he’s doing the things that he needs to do to give him that opportunity to continue on that.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I just wanted to clarify this, when we talked on Monday, it was, ‘When Zach’s healthy, Zach is going to play.’ Now it seems like it’s more open.
I’m staying day-to-day on it. I’ll just cut it at that.
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Robert, when you make a decision like that, how much do you try to read the locker room and try to take the pulse of the locker room?
Always. But I think the locker room is always going to have an opinion. But at the same time, I think it’s our job to make sure that we’re kind of tied together with the locker room, especially from a coaching staff standpoint. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been around the league for a long time now, and one thing I can say is that players just want to win. They want to play well, they want to be in a position where they can perform and look their best. And at the end of the day, the ability to give them that is the first and the number one obligation as a football coach, and as an organization. It’s to put those players in the best position we can, to help them be successful.
Steve Serby, New York Post: What impresses you, Robert, most about Mike’s gameday temperament?
What you see in practice and OTAs and Training Camp, and what we’ve seen, just this calm, cool, loose personality. It’s not too big for him. You’re always curious to see how it’s going to happen on game day, and against Cincinnati and Indianapolis. And against Cincinnati it was just calm, he was cool, he was poised, he was in and out of the huddle, he had the command of it. And then in Indianapolis, first drive, doesn’t get a first down, move the ball a little bit, punt, down 7-0. Goes right down the field, answers with a touchdown. So, just to show that, same thing with Cincinnati, down double digits twice, to rally it back. But his ability to stay calm, cool, and collected within the moment and take one play at a time, is pretty cool for a young guy in his first and second start.
Steve Serby, New York Post: Did you sit them down today, the two of them, Zach and Mike, and let them know?
The offensive guys talked to those guys, I believe, last night.
Bob Glauber, Newsday: Is there any sense you get, from Zach, that he has seen, form Mike, how this offense can function at a high level, that he can internalize that he will kind of apply some of the things that he has seen?
Yeah, I think any player when you get a chance to watch through another lens, it’s always beneficial. So, as a coach, you’re trying to show as many clips as possible of what the offense is supposed to look like, what the defense is supposed to look like, what certain techniques are supposed to look like. So, ideally, you’re using your guys. Obviously, first year in the system, you’re using a lot of different people. You’re using clips from San Francisco. Defensively, we’re using stuff from Atlanta, Jacksonville, Seattle, San Francisco, so you’re trying to pull tape to show this is exactly what it looks like, this is exactly what’s been done before. The value of it happening inhouse is always the greatest. And so, for Mike to come out and run the offense, and even Josh (Johnson) to run the offense as it’s designed and to have success with it, it’s nothing but beneficial. Not only for Zach, but for the entire team.
Connor Hughes, The Athletic: I remember in training camp, when we were really hammering you guys over not having the proven veteran quarterback behind Zach. You had mentioned and threw some names out there, like Tony Romo, about a guy who was unknown in Dallas and got a chance to play and take over and really shine. When you saw Mike go out there and play the way he did against Cincinnati and then have those two series like he did against Indianapolis. What goes through your mind when you see him get his opportunity and perform like he does and then obviously, take off the way that he did?
Like we talked about on Monday, I think it’s awesome. It doesn’t always happen where a young man has his opportunity and he has success. But nothing is cooler to see somebody have an opportunity, work through it, go through the struggles and to take advantage of those opportunities. Not only show that he belongs, but to show that he can start in this league. I think that’s what is always the greatest aspect, that’s what I love about this game. That’s kind of what I love about this country too. When someone gets an opportunity, whether or not you take advantage of it is on your shoulders, so kudos to Mike and what he’s been able to do over the past couple of weeks. Now it’s just a matter of creating consistency. You’ve shown you belong, now can you take that next step?
Rich Cimini, ESPN: Zach, has he been sitting next to Mike (LaFleur) in the booth during the games?
No, he was on the field in Indianapolis. They were all on the field in Indianapolis.
(follow up) He’s just monitoring or listening in?
Brian Costello, New York Post: I’m going to go with one non-quarterback question. With Marcus going down, I know your initial concerns about the player, now you have to shift into your defense. What is losing him do to your defense and how do you overcome it?
Yeah, Marcus is a really good football player, obviously. That safety position has taken quite the hit in terms of the amount of players that have come through there. Got a lot of faith in Jarrod Wilson, he’s been here since the beginning of the season. Sharrod Neasman got here during training camp. Ashtyn (Davis) is working to get his legs underneath him and get within the groove. So that safety group, just trying to work together, get continuity, and just see if we can string together a couple of games where we have the same guys out there so they can continue to get better and improve. So, is it a challenge? Yeah. But do we have faith in our guys? Absolutely.