Head Coach Robert Saleh, 12.29

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Opening Statement:

Good morning everybody. (Jamison) Crowder will not practice today, we’re trying to get him to Sunday. (Sheldon) Rankins is having a normal day off with this knee. Elijah Riley, full participant in practice today. Alright, COVID, as you guy are all aware there were a lot of changes yesterday with the CDC and bringing guys back, including yours truly. So, these guys are going to be cleared today to practice. On offense, it’ll be (Joe) Flacco and (Kenny) Yeboah. And then on defense, Michael Carter II, but he’ll be limited, Lamar Jackson, Jon(athan) Marshall, Noah Dawkins, Hamsah Nasirildeen, Foley (Folorunso Fatukasi) and (Tanzel) Smart. And then we’re still hopeful, we’re hopeful, that we’ll get Vyncint Smith, LDT (Laurent Duvernay-Tardif) and AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) on offense, and then on defense, hopeful that we’ll get JFM (John Franklin-Myers), Ashtyn Davis and Hamilcar Rashed. And then, obviously, there’s another group of guys with regards to (Tyler) Kroft, (Bryce) Hall, LaRoy Reynolds, Quinnen Williams, (Jabari) Zuniga, and (Ken) Webster, that’s more in the 50/50 range.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: So, what’s it like being back, Robert?

It’s like the first day of school, ready to go another 18 weeks.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, when did you get back in the building? Was it yesterday or today?

This morning. I got cleared around, I want to say 7:00 in the evening, but by then I was already knee deep in work, so it wasn’t worth packing up all the equipment.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: Just checking on Elijah Moore, did I miss him in the long list of injuries?

You did not, I did not mention him. He’s also in that 50/50 range, he’s in the same boat as Crowder, so we’re still working on him, trying to get back. We haven’t activated him from IR or cleared him to practice yet, so there’s still stuff that we’re trying to clear physically with his quad.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Where is Elijah with the COVID list? Is he off that yet?

He should be, he wasn’t up on this list because of the IR standing that he has, I’ll have to get back to you on that one, Coz.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: I just wanted to ask an Elijah Moore question. It’s funny, he and Michael Carter have both shown a lot of promise this year when they’ve been out on the field, and yet, because of their injuries happening at different times, those two guys and (Zach) Wilson haven’t been out there a whole lot together. So, what is your level of intrigue, if it doesn’t happen this week, maybe next week or maybe next year, just to get all those guys actually on the field at the same time?

That’s a good observation, Obviously, in the beginning of the year they were, but none of them were really hitting their stride. And then when Zach got hurt, Elijah Moore hit his stride and Michael Carter was coming along. And then when Michael Carter got back, Elijah went out, so you’re right, but they’ve got a chance, especially with the way Zach has been playing since he’s gotten back from injury, the way he’s been improving. To get those three back, it’s going to be a fun little trio to watch.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, I know you’re still waiting for a bunch of guys, but does it almost feel like a return to normalcy for you guys a little bit now that you’re back in the building and guys are coming back?

I don’t know, because we’re still virtual and all that stuff. What I love is the character of our locker room and the way they’ve attacked this and the way they’ve kept the spirits up and the way the Zoom meetings have been very interactive. Now, we’ll get to see practice here in a minute, but guys have a tremendous mindset to them, they’ve been completely locked in. Normalcy, hopefully that’s around the corner now, we’re down the home stretch with everything that’s happened around the world recently with Omicron and all that. The locker room is in a good place and ready to attack Sunday.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, what’s it like facing a quarterback who is older than you this week?

I’m going to ask him what water he drinks, I want to ask him a lot of questions about health, because I need to get out of bed, probably at the ease at which he does. He’s phenomenal. Just watching his tape yesterday, I’m in absolute awe of his pocket presence, his footwork, just all of it, his decision making, he’s an absolute stud and no question the greatest that’s ever played the position. Anyone who questions it, just look at the amount of rings he has. It’s going to be fun.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Is it possible, Robert, to fool him with defensive scheme or is that just kind of, he’s been around for 20 years, he’s seen everything, you really can’t hide anything out there?

We always, in the coaching world I guess, if all these plays who start coaching like, ‘God, if I only knew now what I knew then as a player when I played.’ So, if you ever wanted to see what a coach would look like if he still had the ability to play, there he is, Tom (Brady). I mean he’s playing better than he’s ever played, I mean he looks phenomenal. His decision making, all of it, he’s so precise, he gets rid of the ball and he knows what’s happening. You guys saw the clip of him telling (Leonard) Fournette that it was Cover Two and his back was turned. The guy just knows, and I promise you, he’s going to pick one of 11 that’s going to tell him the snap and he’ll find it very quickly and he knows exactly where he needs to get in progression before the ball is even snapped.


Brian Costello, New York Post: We spoke with Sheldon Rankins on Monday, Robert, and he’s faced Tom a few times, and he had kind of an interesting observation, with all the young players you have on defense, he said, “They can’t go out there and kind of get star struck and look across the line and go, ‘My God, that’s really Tom Brady.’” These kids have watched him win seven Super Bowls throughout the years. Is that something you talk about this week, is that something you’ve seen happen before?

I was in Seattle when we brought Terrell Owens to camp, and I remember all the young corners wanting him one-on-one. I know these professional players have a ton of respect for Tom, obviously they all grew up watching Tom, but I promise you they also want to go compete against Tom and they want to compete against Mike Evans and they want to compete against Fournette and all their great players. And then on the flip side, Richard Sherman is on the defensive side of the ball, you forget about him. There’s a lot of star power on this football team with (Ndamukong) Suh, their linebackers are phenomenal, so really, really, really talented championship roster that our guys are really excited to go compete against. But at the same time, the messaging here is to keep it internal, because it still comes down to us and our ability to execute at a high level and trusting that wherever the chips fall, they’ll fall in a place that we like. It’s a great opportunity because this team is playing for, obviously for the playoffs and they’re hitting their stride and they’re trying to, obviously they won the division, but I believe they still have home field advantage in their sights. So, again, it’s a team we’re going to get everything they’ve got, and we got to give it back.


Connor Hughes, The Athletic: When we were talking to Sheldon also, Robert, he was kind of making some comments about, you see Tom when you’re growing up or you see Tom from afar, and then when you actually see him there are some things that standout that are a little bit different. So, do you remember the first time you ever coached against him and the first time you saw him and just some of the things maybe that he does that you didn’t necessarily expect, that you don’t see on TV?

I try to blackout some of the times that we’ve played him. I always argue that the greatest players in all of professional sports work the absolute hardest, by far. Whether they do it in private, whether they do it out in the open on Instagram, whatever it is. Tom is one of those guys, when you look at the relentlessness at which he works, the work ethic, the study habits, pulling guys with him to go work, pulling guys with him to go throw. Guy will go on vacation, will call up some teammates to come to his vacation house so he can make sure he’s still getting his work in while he’s playing with his family, or spending time with family. So, he’s an absolutely relentless. So, whatever he does do, I wouldn’t be surprised.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: With injuries and covid, what’s your tight end situation right now?

I know we’re signing somebody, I don’t have the name on my desk right now. I know we’re working on signing somebody to the practice squad. You’ve got Dan(iel) Brown, you’ve got Yeboah, so we’re trying to get to three tight ends on our roster.


Dan Leberfeld, Jets Confidential: Robert, with the COVID list and the long list, what percentage or how many guys are asymptomatic even though they’re on the COVID list? I’m not asking for specific number, but just a general ballpark on what exactly is going on as far as guys that are on the list but don’t have any symptoms.

You know Dan, I wish I had that answer for you. I would just be giving you a ballpark, I wouldn’t be able to come close to an accurate number. But I do know if that they’re clear, they’re asymptomatic, based on the CDC rules. So, my assumption, and it should be, it’s the only way could be, is that all of them that I gave you that are cleared today are clear of all symptoms. So, that’s nine of them.


(follow up) But the question is more, how many guys are on the list before they’re cleared who are fine but they just tested positive.

I don’t have that answer for you right now, Dan. I’ll get it to you a little bit later. I got to do some number crunching.


Al Iannazzone, Newsday: Robert, I know you said you expected Elijah Riley to come back, but the fact that he has, he’s coming back this week, what does that mean to you? Because it was a really scary thing that we saw.

Knock on wood, Elijah’s such a tough individual. Obviously he’s an armed forces so, just his mindset, his grit, his toughness, all that stuff. Completely blessed that he’s able to recover as quickly as he has, and really excited to get him back in the fold, because in the short times that he’s been here, he’s garnered a lot of respect from his teammates and his coaches.


Dennis Waszak, Associated Press: Robert, I’ve got a little bit of an off the beaten path question for you. You mentioned, you talked about Matt LaFleur, your buddy, he tied George Seifert for the most wins for a coach for his first three seasons. You go back with him, was there anything that you saw from him back then, that you could share, that you knew like, hey, this guy’s going to be pretty good at this.

Man, I’ve always had such a high level of respect, I mean call it the first moment he and I were sharing an office together at Central Michigan, and all the different conversations he and I would have. You just know when someone knows, right? And he played quarterback, I played against him in college, we played in the same division. He went to Ashland University, became an offensive coordinator and in his first year they won 11 games and go to the playoffs. So, anytime he’s been a play caller, he’s been very successful. I mean, he’s a tremendous mind, he’s a relentless worker and I’m very fortunate to be able to call him my friend.


Brian Costello, New York Post: Robert, with all the COVID moving parts for you team and with the protocols and stuff, just how difficult has it been, as an organization, just kind of just to manage all this and keep up with the changes? I’m sure there’s a lot of guys behind the scenes doing a lot of work on this.

Yeah, Joe Douglas and his staff have been absolutely, they’ve been rock stars. Shoot, I called Joe this morning, as soon as I walked in, and I’m looking at the board trying to look at all the new names and all that stuff. He’s like, “Coach, we’ll get this one, focus on meeting and I’ll give you a call in about 30 minutes and we’ll have it all sorted out.” And boom. So, Joe, Rex Hogan, and (Greg Nejmeh) and the staff have been absolutely awesome at keeping the roster where it needs to be, with great communication with coaching staff in who we need and who needs to be up and down, and all that stuff. So, a really good handle on the roster, especially with all the different moving parts, it’s been a heck of a couple of weeks.


Rich Cimini, ESPN: How did Will Parks do? For a guy who came in, had literally a few days to get ready and learn the playbook. How did he do and what do you see for him going forward?

We’re excited about Will. All it takes is one game, right? He, one, credit to him and the coaching staff, for the extra hours they put in to get ready for Sunday. Two, we went in with a much smaller game plan to make sure that they could execute, rather than try to trick them, let’s give them a chance to go execute, which he did. Now three, credit to the player to go out there, just let loose. Was it perfect by any sense of the imagination? No. But was it winning football? Absolutely. So, he in his very short time already earned the benefit of the doubt. We’re really looking forward to working with him more.