Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.16
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Opening Statement: Good morning, guys. Real quick with injuries, Quinnen (Williams) – he won’t practice today, he’s still going to be 50/50, but d-linemen don’t need to practice to be able to be ready for gameday. So, we’re still hopeful, but 50/50. (Brandin) Echols will be out. Corey Davis is still in the concussion protocol, he’ll be out. And then Mike White, he’ll be limited at practice, but he will be out. With that said, real quick regarding the Mike White news before you guys start tweeting let me just kind, I’m going to kind of chronical this whole thing for you guys, so we can get this one right. Sunday after the game obviously it’s well documented, he was taken to the hospital to get x-rays and all that stuff, and all of that stuff cleared, he got on the plane, everything was checked out fine. Monday, Tuesday, same thing getting more evaluation. He was cleared for practice, which he has been doing, he feels fine, but our doctors and rightfully so, would not clear him for contact. Mike White who is an absolute warrior and has been doing everything he could this week to try to find another opinion to get him onto the football field, to find somebody who would clear him for contact. He’s exhausted every measure he possibly can because he wants to be out there for his teammates. That opinion will not change, and it’s gotten to the point where we could drag this out to Sunday guys, but this is one of those deals where we got to do what’s best for the player and protect the player from the player. So, he’s been cleared for practice, he has not been cleared for contact, so with that, this is going to be a great opportunity for Zach (Wilson). When he was elevated to the number two quarterback, it was with the understanding that there’s a strong possibility that he was going to play and to prepare accordingly, he’s gotten vast majority of the first team reps, he’ll get all the reps today, he’ll get all the reps tomorrow, and so, we feel very comfortable about Zach’s preparation as the first-string quarterback and that he’s gotten his normal work load as a starting quarterback would normally get with the limitations that were placed on Mike, but love Mike, love how hard he’s worked to try to get back for his team, but at the end of the day, it’s just one of those deals where we’ve got to protect the player from the player.
Rich Cimini, ESPN.com: Does he have broken ribs?
I’m not going to get into specifics about what his exact injury is, but again, we’re going to evaluate him again on Monday, so he’s got a chance for Thursday, he really does, but the challenge for that is that it’s a short week, we’d be much more confident if it was full week, but again, he’ll get reevaluated again on Monday to see if he can get that clearance.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Because it’s a short week, does that make it harder for Mike (White) to come back next week?
That’s what I’m getting at. The short week makes it a challenge, but there’s still, I mean this was, it wasn’t like a clear-cut decision, like no, for even this week. So, it’s been a challenge, a lot of discussions, but again, we’ll reevaluate Monday and see where we’re at from there.
Zack Rosenblatt, The Athletic: Because I know you don’t like hypotheticals, but you said the goal is to get Zach (Wilson) back on the field, so if he goes out and plays like you want him to play, is he your starting quarterback next week?
Well, fair question, but again, it is a hypothetical. This is just a great opportunity for him to just get back on track and do what we know he’s capable of.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, I remember you said Zach, when you made Zach number two there was the thought that he would play. Why? Because number twos don’t necessarily play unless something happens.
So, Monday, Tuesday, he wasn’t cleared for contact, he was clear for practice, but not cleared for contact and we were hopeful that he would find an opinion, our doctors would not clear him for contact, but he was seeking an opinion.
Brian Costello, New York Post: (follow up) In your mind, you thought there was chance that this was going to happen?
Yeah, to prepare for it exactly.
Ryan Dunleavy, New York Post: Robert, just how that works, your doctors are okay with that? Like seeking outside, other opinions? They don’t mind? They don’t counter what they say?
For sure, that’s common practice. So, part of player’s safety is them having the ability to go out and seek all the different opinions. We encourage it, we want them to seek other opinions. Do we trust our doctors to the upmost? Absolutely, but you want, just like we want to be challenged as coaches, or we want our players to be challenged, we want our doctors to be challenged too, and to get those opinions. So, players are always, always, from a safety standpoint because there’s times where you know he might be cleared and a player is like, “but I’m not feeling great,” and so he wants that second opinion to make sure that we’re not just trying to throw him on the field to further damage because I’ve seen that in this League before, so, for the players, and this is League wide, yeah, those opinions are always welcome and encouraged.
Andy Vasquez, NJ.com: What was the conversation like with Mike when you told him he wasn’t going to be able to play and obviously this is his career, he’s fighting for his career here, so just how did he handle it?
He’s great, we all love Mike. Like I said, he’s an absolute warrior. He’s been relentlessly fighting to try to find a way to get back on the football field this week and taking advantage of being just limited and trying to be there for his team, but at the end of the day, like I said, this is one those deals where we got to protect him from him.
Dennis Waszak, The Associated Press: He seemed pretty confident throughout the week, in fact I think even yesterday he said, “Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind, but if we cross that bridge, I guess we cross that bridge.”
Yeah, and if you talk to him, he’s not bs-ing. He feels fine, he can throw a ball fine. He is not in pain, it’s a contact issue and so with that, if it was seven on seven, he’d be out there playing, but it’s not.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, when you benched Zach there was the on-field issue and there also was he made that comment after the New England game that I don’t think went over well in the locker room. Where do you think he is in terms of the trust level of his teammates right now?
I think our guys trust him. I feel like he’s had a really good week of practice. I feel like he’s been very good over the last three weeks when being deliberate and attacking the moments that we’ve asked him to attack and all the different things with regards to foot work and fundamentals, but I don’t know if there’s a trust issue. He’s got to go out there and do the best he possibly can, and I know as a coaching staff we trust him, and I know the team trusts him. It’s just everyone doing their part and making sure that we execute at the highest level possible and do the best we can.
Brian Costello, New York Post: When you made the decision to make him number two, did you have this in mind that there was a good chance he was going to have to play on Sunday?
No, so, the decision to move him to number two really happened on Friday before the game, I mean it was well in advance, like he’s showing it, let’s get him back to preparing as if he’s going to prepare, no different than we did for Mike when we felt like if he ever had the opportunity, you’ve got to give him the opportunity to prepare mentally as the next guy up. So, the decision to start doing that happened before the injury ever happened.
Andy Vasquez, NJ.com: He’s coming into a situation where obviously you guys have a lot on the line on Sunday and he has a lot on the line as he’s trying to prove that he can get back to where he was. So, how, mentally, do you want him to approach that?
He just has to focus on the moment. Every game in the NFL is on the line, every play is on the line, every decision is on the line, and we feel like Zach has proven, I mean he’s played very good football for us and we did go 5-2 with him at quarterback, and part of that are things that don’t show up on the stat sheet with regards to evading pressure, extending plays, taking care of the football. So, he’s done a lot of really good things and so he just needs to continue his maturation and growth and, like I said, we’ve got all the faith in him, but he’s really just got to focus on Sunday and Sunday alone.
Brian Costello, New York Post: When you said this could’ve gone to game time if you wanted to, when did you guys make the decision of whether you’re going to do this?
It was a combination of last night and this morning. It came to the point of: Let’s just protect him from him. Let’s do what’s best for him. Could he find one? Maybe. Maybe he could find one. It just wasn’t worth it. It’s not worth it to string along. You guys know me, just trying to be as transparent as we can, when we can, but this is more of an organizational decision to just move forward and we’ll live to fight another day.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Did you tell the team this morning?
They’re all aware. They’re all aware.
Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: How unusual, how rare is it for a quarterback to fix his footwork, his throwing mechanics in three weeks?
Good question, good question. I don’t think it’s impossible. He’s done a really nice job. I thought he’s had two of his best throwing days in practice. Practice at the end of the day doesn’t matter; we got to go do it on Sunday. He’s been doing a really good job just finding completions and getting the ball where he needs to with accuracy. So, he’s done a really nice job, like I said, working deliberately and tying everything in. For him, it’s really just making the easy, easy with regards to getting your feet in the direction they need to go, get your body set, and deliver the football the way he knows how. He’s the same quarterback that once went 18-for-18 in a bowl game, so he’s very capable, it’s just a matter of being conscientious and tying everything together.
Brian Costello, New York Post: Lions question for you, Robert. We asked you about (Adian) Hutchinson the other day, but Jameson Williams was also a guy I’m assuming was on your radar pre-draft with an interesting evaluation because it was talent versus availability. What was your evaluation of him in the pre-draft process?
I appreciate the Lions question. Speed demon, he can flat out roll. Watching his tape was pretty fun because it felt like he always had 10 yards of separation on the deep end. Watching him and Ahmad (Gardner) go up against one another in the bowl game for the little bit of time that they did was pretty freaking cool, the playoff game or whatever it is, but he is an uber talented young man, super, super fast, and I know he caught one against Minnesota, but they’ve got a really cool player right there.
Jeane Coakley, SNY: You have a pretty cool shirt on today.
Yeah, so, you know last year everyone remembers, I’m sure with Coach Knapper (Greg Knapp), tragically passed away when he was hit by a distracted driver, so we’re wearing this shirt to remember coach. He had a long tradition of running the stadium steps before every game, so we are as a staff running the steps on Sunday. This represents that there’s close to one million distracted drivers every year. (Expletive) got to change.