Head Coach Robert Saleh, 3.28

[please click photo for link to the video]

On the potential trade for Tyreek Hill…

Obviously, Tyreek is a special player, he’s got a special skillset, he’s got dynamic speed. It’s very easy to get him the football and we thought it would be a really good opportunity when it was presented to us to add an elite player to our offense, along with all the really good players that we have now. Obviously, Joe (Douglas) was aggressive, took a big swing, didn’t work out. Win some, lose some, but happy we tried it.

 

On his reaction to the trade not happening…

It’s football, right? You win some, you lose-some. The young man wanted to go to Miami, we knew that. We knew we had to be aggressive, which I felt like we were. Really excited for him, that he gets this opportunity to go back home, and really excited for the opportunity to compete against him.

 

On playing Tyreek Hill twice a year…

There are great players all over the league, so you’re used to playing elite players. Obviously, with him being at Miami, it’s a great opportunity for us to go and compete.

 

On if adding a receiver is a priority…

I don’t know if it’s a priority. We want to add as many really good players as we can. We’ve got a lot of draft capital to do some of that. We have a lot of needs on our football team in terms of just trying to fill some roster voids. I thought we did a great job in free agency with the things that we did. To call it a priority, one over the other, I don’t know if I see it that way. I think every position, we’re in a good position to take the best players available at every single spot and that’s something we’ll do.

 

On free agency additions…

I feel like we really attacked the character side of the football game and our locker room. When you look at D.J. Reed and (Jordan) Whitehead and C.J. (Uzomah), (Tyler) Conklin and Laken (Tomlinson) and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone. (Inaudible: 2:10-2:17) They’re bringing an edge to the locker room, they’re bringing professionalism to the locker room and they’re bringing a winning pedigree to the locker room. They’ve all been in Championship games, they’ve all been with winning organizations, so it’s really exciting to get those guys here.

 

On if he feels that other trade opportunities may present themselves…

I can’t speak for the other 31, I’d imagine so. If an opportunity presents itself, I know Joe will pull out his baseball bat and take a swing. But at the same time, it’s not something that we’re looking for constantly, but if something pops up because of another team’s needs, we’ll be ready to have a conversation on it.

 

On where Laken Tomlinson will play…

Right now, the plan is Tomlinson at left guard and move AVT (Alijah Vera-Tucker) to right.

 

On the decision to move AVT to right guard…

Laken has been in the league a long time, playing left guard for a very long time. AVT has shown flexibility in college, he played tackle, he played guard. He’s got tremendous flexibility and he’s still a young pup. There’s a lot of things that he can learn. I really think the dynamic of our offensive line will work really well with those, especially with that interior. We got a really good one.

 

On keeping Laken Tomlinson at left guard…

Either way, Laken, like I said, he’s shown, he’s had a lot of success at left guard in this league as a Pro Bowler last year and it’s something that we just don’t want to mess with for him. AVT will be fine. There are still things that he’s still learning. Him doing on the right side, he’s very, very athletic. He’ll be able to pick it up very quick.

 

On adding another weapon on offense…

Weapons, obviously, they’re game changers. Anyone who can touch the ball and go 80 at any moment is important. So, again, if those opportunities present, we’ll attack. But at the same time, we’re not in a panic either because we have a lot of draft capital and it’s things we can address in the draft.

 

On the talent in the AFC…

I feel like, when I was in the NFC, it felt the same way where guys just kept jumping ship on the AFC, so it’s all cyclical, right? It’s exciting because we get to go compete against them, but it’s exciting also to continue to try to close the gap. We feel like we’ve had a really good offseason, and obviously, we may not have hit the headlines with the star players, but still feel like we took a really good step this offseason. It’s fun to watch the league work, it’s the world’s longest soap opera. It’s pretty cool to watch.

 

On building the roster this offseason…

It’s going to happen. We’re still building, obviously we’re going to have our moment in the sun. It’s a big offseason for a lot of our young guys to come in and take a step and show the progress that we know that they’re capable of. And when they do that, and when it’s our time to pounce, we’ll pounce. Like I said though, we’ve got a lot of draft capital, we’ve got a lot of exciting moments this offseason, it’s not close to done.

 

On Carl Lawson’s progress…

He’s doing great, expecting him back for training camp. He’ll be around the building, we’ve already seen him. He’s excited to get back. I mean the guy is watching tape on the draft picks, he’s doing everything. He’s fully involved, really excited to get him back.

 

On if the players added to the division make defense more of a priority this offseason…

I don’t think it changes anything. We were the worst defense in football last year and it’s got to get better. We’re playing a lot of elite football players and I think second year in the system will add some continuity, but at the same time, we were young last year and they’re going to get better. We get Carl back, we’ll add pieces, so we’ll be better. What does that look like? I’m not sure yet, but we’ll definitely be better.

 

On Carl Lawson potentially returning earlier than training camp…

We wouldn’t want him to, there’s no point in rushing him back.

 

On Jamison Crowder signing with Buffalo…

Jamison is a pro’s pro. Very smart route runner, all that stuff. All the football stuff aside, he’s going to be one of the better locker room guys at Buffalo. He’s a tremendous leader, guys look up to him. Really sad to see him go, really excited for his next opportunity.

 

On his relationship with Laken Tomlinson…

There’s a saying that you want guys who can help you plant the flag in terms of the messaging and all that stuff. My relationship with Laken was just the level of respect for the way he played, his tenacity on gameday, that nastiness that he’d bring in between the whites when kickoff would start. The competitive nature that he brings, his mental toughness, his book smarts, all of it. So, bringing him and D.J. Reed and guys who know us and who think like us, even though I don’t know Whitehead, it’s the same thing, Conklin and C.J., really, really good group of guys that all match that same character of what we’re trying to bring into our locker room.

 

On the development of the young players…

We’re still young. You go from a rookie to a second-year player, you’re still young. For me, we all want to see that progress, that glimmer of hope that you’re about to be a superstar, that step in the right direction that you’re going to be a fixture in the NFL for years to come. That’s what you’re looking for out of these young guys, but you also want to see (Mekhi) Becton make a comeback and have a great third year. You want to see Mimsy (Denzel Mims) come back and have his best year and Ashtyn Davis and all the ’20 draft picks to bounce back from what happened a year ago. They have a chance, they’re all special and they can do this. So, there’s a lot of things that we want to look between now and the season that when the season starts, there’s that jump that we’d like to see everyone make.

 

On Becton’s progress…

We’ve been in constant communication with him, feel like he’s doing a really good job. Really excited to see him come back. He’s putting in the work, it’s not easy going through what he’s going through. I’ll speak for him, I do know when he does come back, he’s going to be a ball of butcher knives. So, just really excited to get him back.

 

On Becton’s recovery from injury…

Just in general, he’s a very large man and he’s been working on that knee. The road back for him is going to be harder than a guy like me who, if I had the same injury, I’m lighter, it is what it is. I know he’s working his tail off and really excited to get him back.

 

On if Becton will participate in OTAs…

I’m not sure about that one yet, but excited to get him back for OTAs.

 

On the left tackle spot…

We’ll see how that works out, that’s stuff that we’re talking through and going through all of OTAs. Like I said, George (Fant) has earned the right to be in the conversation to have that left tackle spot and Mekhi is out there. Call it a competition if you want. We know what George has done and really excited to get him back, too.

 

Inaudible

We’ll see.

 

Inaudible

That’s a Joe question.

 

On John Benton’s DUI…

We’ll talk about that when we get back. We’re working with the league office and all that stuff, so we’ll discuss all that stuff internally.

 

(follow-up)

For sure. I think his embarrassment and the way he feels, obviously nobody was there to have that conversation with him, but it’s a great lesson for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you have one, two, in this day and age, it’s very easy to get an Uber, it’s not hard. I know he knows he made a mistake, hopefully it’s something that we can learn from.

 

On what he wants to see from Zach Wilson…

Love to see Zach own the playbook at a faster clip. Not that he wasn’t, typical rookie learning curve, we’re really looking for that recall. Just the fundamentals, all the different stuff that we’re looking for, that’s all going to come. For OTAs, really looking for him to take that step in the right direction with regards to playbook, football 101, absorbing the scheme so he can play a lot faster.

 

On Jarrad Davis signing with Detroit…

I love JD (Davis), I thought he was going to have a really good year. He had a really good OTAs, was having a really good training camp. Obviously, he hurt his ankle and really rushed himself back to be part of the team, so any issues that he may have had during the season were really him playing on a bum ankle. Really excited for him to go back to Detroit and get another opportunity. Really thought he was going to have a good year last year before that injury, but tremendous individual, has his head in a really good spot. So, really excited for him and his op.

 

On the status of the roster…

I know that we are closer, I know that we’ve done a really nice job with Joe and our staff and his staff, rebuilding the foundation and replanting a foundation that we can build off of. The locker room is in really good shape, we’ve got tremendous leadership in the locker room. We’ve got players who want to be here. They’re not here because they’re overpaid, they’re here because they want to be here. We’ve got guys who are made of the right mindset, we’ve got really good football players and now it’s about developing our young guys, continuing to draft and continuing to close the gap that exists within the division.

 

On when he feels the team will make the playoffs…

(smiling) We’ll see.

 

On free agents joining championship contenders…

Of course, it might be a little frustrating, but at the same time, any time you’re in a rebuild, I’ve told you guys a million times, this is number five. Early in the rebuild, that’s just what it is. People want to go to the perceived team that’s closer to a championship. But at the end of the day, it was like that in San Francisco, in ’17 and ’18 and then you get (George) Kittle and you draft (Nick) Bosa and you get Richard Sherman in free agency and you add a couple of pieces and, next thing you know, you draft Fred Warner and you hit. Now people just want to come to you. There’s no panic, there’s no panic at all. Does it get frustrating? Sure, but at the same time, it’s something that we’ve been through, we expect it and it’s something that will change eventually.

 

On the pairing of Uzomah and Conklin…

I think it does a lot, and those two complement each other very, very well in terms of C.J. being that wide tight end, run game, not that Conklin can’t do that, he can do that too, he can fight his butt off, but getting the ball in space, running through zones, high cross, all the different things Uzomah can do because he’s so big and strong and fast. Then Conklin being able to dime people up and win one-on-ones and separate. A really, really good compliment to one another and what they do. On top of it, like I said, their leadership and their drive and the chip they have on their shoulders. They want more. To add that to that group, veteran leadership, is really, really exciting.

 

On the additions of Reed and Whitehead…

D.J. Reed, I always talk about Nate Shepherd being the king of strain, D.J. Reed is going to be right there with him for that crown. The young man works his absolute butt off and every single play you will feel the intensity of how he plays. Having him out there and his fight, obviously it helps the d-line a lot. Whitehead, what he’s going to bring, along with his toughness and his tenacity, his ability to communicate and his mental football IQ is off the charts. To have him back there to be a stabilizing force for our young defensive backfield, again, couldn’t be happier that he’s here and really excited to see him play.

 

On the outlook of the defense for next season…

It’s going to be a lot better. Last year, I’m not making excuses, but it is what it is, last year we had that four-game stretch in the middle of the year where we got beat up. But before the Bye Week, we were playing at a pretty good level. After those four games, we played significantly better. I think we ranked like 18th, which is still not good enough, but we were better a year ago at the end of the last half of the year. Those four games in the middle of the season were so bad we could never recover. So, very confident, especially when we get Carl back, and we continue to add in the draft and our young guys continue to get better. Really excited about our group and its ability to get better.

 

On the possibility of drafting an edge rusher…

You guys know me, I’ve said it before, if we had the Fearsome Foursome, we’d still be wanting to add a pass rusher. It’s always going to help. If the opportunity presents itself, we’ll get it, but we’re not going to force the position either. John Franklin-Myers is in good shape, obviously with Carl, we added Jacob Martin, Bryce Huff is still in the fold, so we still feel good about our defensive line as it stands. Quinnen (Williams) is getting ready to have a really good year and Sheldon Rankins, so it’s still a really good group. It allows us the ability not to have to force the issue at any of our draft picks. Again, if someone is there, we’ll pounce on it.

 

On deciding between drafting an offensive or defensive lineman with Douglas…

We’re going to go into a bare-knuckle boxing match. (joking) It’s going to be a great discussion for sure.

 

On Whitehead’s fit on defense…

You know, with Jordan, he did a lot of different things in Tampa. Played corner, played nickel, played safety, did a lot of different things which shows he has the mental aptitude to be able to handle a big workload. He’s going to play one spot and do a handful of things, so really excited to see where he can go when he’s asked to do the same thing over and over and over again. Everyone is different philosophically, but honing in on a position where he can put himself on repeat, we always feel like a guy can maximize and really take his game to another level. And with how instinctive he is, when he’s seen the same things over and over again, it’ll allow him to trigger a lot faster. Really excited for his opportunity and really excited to see where he could take this defense.

 

On what he wants to see from Elijah Moore…

Same thing as Zach, take the step in the right direction in terms of your ability to show that you belong in this league for the long haul. Everyone can have a really good rookie year; the really good ones have a very good second year and the special ones trigger in the third one. For him, it’s continue to get better, show up the way he shows up every day, bring your best effort every day and trust that the results will be exactly what you want.

 

On what makes Russell Wilson special…

The fourth quarter. He turns and he puts on his Superman cape, and he puts the team on his back, and he finds a way to win a football game. I thought we would avoid having to play him, but now we get to play him, I don’t know what week yet, but really happy for him. His locker room presence, leadership, his team-oriented manner. He’s unbelievable. Really excited for Nathaniel Hackett to have the opportunity to coach him. It’s going to suck to play him, but it’s good for him.

 

Inaudible

He’s got a very energetic personality, really happy for him. When he got that job and just talking to him on the phone, he’s got a heck of a roster to work with and really excited for him and his op.

 

On Carson Wentz…

Big man, very good decision maker, he was very accurate that particular day and they beat us up pretty good, I remember that much.

 

On his message to last year’s second-year players…

My message to really all the second-year guys was that they’re not the first or the last second-year players to have a hard season, it’s league wide. Second year players struggle for one reason or another. My message to all of them was to come back, have the best offseason of your life, come back stronger than ever and get ready to attack this thing and re-establish yourself the way you established yourself as a rookie. Denzel has been working hard, I’ve been able to keep some communication with him. I know Miles (Austin) has been talking to him and so has Mike LaFleur, so excited for all of them to come back and take the step that we know that they’re capable of.

 

On why players sometimes struggle in their second year…

That’s a great question. It’s a combination of understanding the word “no” and the balance of social life, money and keeping the main thing the main thing. Somewhere in their rookie year and in that offseason, they lose touch with the answer “no,” they struggle to balance the money, social aspect and their want to, to go out and have really their first bout of freedom that they’ve ever had in their life with millions of dollars in their bank account, right? So, that’s why a lot of second year guy’s struggle. They just struggle with that balance and all that stuff. So, hopefully this offseason, they understand the balance, they understand how to attack it and they understand how hard this business is and usually they work their tails off, they somehow trigger in the third year.

 

On the transition from college to the NFL for a nickel cornerback…

I think it’s a little bit different in there, because you’re dealing in short quarters. Usually, just in layman’s terms, you’re looking for a guy who has got quicker feet and kind of a skillset. They’re more involved in the run game, they’re more involved in blitzing, they’ve got different things to do other than just being a man-to-man or zone third corner or cloud corner, they’ve got hook drops, curls drops, they just do more. They’re almost like a hybrid between a safety and a corner. Hopefully that makes sense. So, they’re kind of in between that safety-corner, because they’ve got to do a heck of a lot more stuff.

 

On when it should begin to click for a rookie…

It’s somewhere in training camp, because you have the hurdle of the 40 days when they’re gone. So, when they come back to training camp, right around that third preseason game and just the consistency is built up and they’ve built some equity, you feel like, ‘Ok, this due is about to go off.’ So, you just see it all the time.

 

On if he’ll tell them when players have taken off…

No. (laughter)

 

On the approach to players during the offseason…

Same thing. So, you try to beat it at the forefront. I think our performance staff has put together a really cool curriculum with regards to keeping the main thing the main thing, keeping the distractions at a minimum and just helping them through this offseason. I know a lot of them have been working. Zach, I’ve been joking around here that he’s been on tour just visiting his teammates. So, it’s cool that he is putting in the work and he’s showing that he’s putting in the work and it’s going to be good when they all get back.

 

On Wilson traveling to workout with his teammates…

I’m excited for him, I think it’s good to go see your teammates and all that. We’re really excited to get him back. I know he’s been watching cutups and all that stuff. He’s putting in the work, he’s definitely putting in the work.

 

On Wilson’s development and if it was hinderance last season…

It’s not too much a hinderance, it’s just the learning curve of football. I learned a long time ago from Gus Bradley that football is three categories, you got 101, 301, 501. The 301 aspect is your fundamentals, your techniques. The 501 is your ability to understand the other side of the ball. But just like college, you can’t get to the 301 level until you’ve mastered 101 which is scheme. So, when you see some of those errant throws that he had, that’s indecision and thinking on scheme. So, hopefully he comes back this year, masters that aspect of it, and then people can, because a lot of people saw, when his feet were right, his eyes were right and he knew the play exactly the way it needed to be run, he’d rip it in there and people would be like, “Wow, there’s the throw.” So, it’s just getting more opportunities to have those situations for him and that starts with 101 football.

 

On re-signing Braxton Berrios…

Just like all the other guys we brought in, his character in the locker room, who he is as a man, the role he found within our offense and with Mike LaFleur and everybody with all the different stuff he does, his reliability as a returner. Super, super happy that we brought him back.

 

On deciding who will play in the slot and outside…

We’ll see with this OTAs and how it works out. Elijah has got a pretty cool skillset in the sense that he can really rip the top off the coverage and scare people with his speed, that’s his superpower. When you get to the slot, he can still do that, but there’s different ways that you’ve got to use him. There’s going to be a whole lot of different things that we try in OTAs, along with training camp, to make sure that we get the best combination of guys out there.

 

Inaudible

He had offers from a lot of different places. To bring him back, back to New Jersey, is really cool.

 

On Demeco Ryans…

Just from when he was a QC even, Demeco, definitely on the fast tracked as everyone sees, but it’s deserved. He’s incredible intelligent, he’s got a tremendous demeanor to him, he’s got great presence to him, very organized, very detailed and I know he pulled himself out of the head coaching race this year, but I promise, whoever hires him as a head coach is going to be very, very fortunate.

 

Inaudible

He’s only going to get better. Obviously, in the second half of the year, he really got in a groove. When you watch the tape, that team took on his identity. Really excited to see what he brings in Year Two, he’s fantastic.

 

On his impression of Nate Ollie…

Nate is great. Really upset that we lost him, but at the same time, excited for Gus (Bradley), it’s well documented, Gus is like a second father to me. He’s in good hands with Gus and Gus has definitely got a heck of a d-line coach with him.

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