Head Coach Jay Gruden
On the injury report:
"Did not participate: Matt Jones, illness; Will Compton, knee; and Su'a Cravens, upper arm. Limited were [Ryan] Kerrigan, knee; [Shawn] Lauvao, groin; [Spencer] Long, concussion, stinger; [Will] Blackmon, concussion, [thumb]; Mack Brown, concussion; Ty Nsekhe, ankle; Jordan Reed, shoulder; Chris Baker, ankle; [Martrell] Spaight, shoulder; and [Tress] Way, ankle. Full was [Brandon] Scherff."
On if C Spencer Long and G Shawn Lauvao will return to their starting spots:
"We've got to still make sure they get healthy. And Spencer obviously is still – it's still up to the doctors and then Shawn we'll see how he does the next couple of days."
On if Long is still in the concussion protocol:
"He's been cleared to participate. But he's still progressing through it, yep."
On possibly moving Long to the left guard position:
"Arie [Kouandjio] played pretty good, really. So we have options, which is good. Let's just sort it out. Let's have another good day at practice tomorrow and see where we are health-wise. We'll make those decisions at the end of the week."
On P Tress Way being listed on the injury report:
"Tress Way was on the list. Ankle. He got blocked pretty good."
On if he will bring in a backup for Way:
"No, we'll let him fight through it. The good thing is he hasn't had to punt a whole lot this year but we'll see how he does tomorrow. I think he's going to be OK but we'll see."
On if he's talked to CB Josh Norman about facing his former team:
"He tends to be an emotional guy? [laughter] You know, the good thing about Josh is it doesn't vary week-to-week, really. He gets up for everybody. He gets up for whoever they line up against him. That's the beauty of him. That's why I think he's such a great player because he doesn't discriminate as far as him and his emotions and his level of intensity for game day. So I haven't had to talk to him because I know how he's going to be – the same as he is every week."
On the matchup between Norman and Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin:
"Yeah, it'll be a good matchup… Ted Ginn's a good receiver also. [Devin] Funchess is a good receiver, so who knows who he's going to be on right now. But Kelvin is a big time target and I don't know why his production isn't where they expected but we consider him a very viable threat and a very good receiver. So he'll get a lot of attention from us. But as far as his production, I don't know."
On if there will be any 'extra' from Norman:
"No, no. I mean, there might be, I don't know. You'd have to ask him on that one."
On LB Martrell Spaight:
"Well, I think he has been in position to learn from Comp [Will Compton] and he's been in all the meetings, he's… When he got an opportunity last week in the second half, he did a good job. He made a game-saving tackle on a screen. You know, he got cut, fell down, popped back up, made a big-time tackle to get them into third down and one and I think we ended up getting the stop. So we like his athletic ability. Mentally, is he as far along as where Comp is? We'll see, but he didn't have any trouble communicating the calls, so I feel very confident in Spaight. I think he's a good linebacker. He's tough, he's physical, and we've just got to make sure health-wise he gets to where he can be productive."
On the biggest thing he wants to see from Spaight:
"Oh, he's a young football player still, you know, with limited starting reps, but this is a great opportunity for him. We'll see what he can do. We have a good feeling of what he can do. We know he can play the run, he's very physical. He was a dynamic player senior year at Arkansas. But as far as being in the starting role, communicating the defense play in and play out, he hasn't had that opportunity other than preseason and a little bit here and there, so I'm excited to see him. I love his energy. I like the way he hits, he hustles and he's good in pass defense. But as far as communication, we'll see how he does, but I think he'll be fine."
On his level of confidence with the tinkering in the secondary:
"That's the way it is. I think you're trying to find that perfect match and you're trying to give people opportunities. And if it's not working in certain areas, maybe you try somebody else. If everybody is practicing well, you know like Deshazor Everett for example, man, he's had a couple really good weeks of practice. We gave him an opportunity and he got an interception so maybe he'll get more reps this week. You know, Will Blackmon had the hurt hand then he had the concussion to open the door for somebody like Deshazor and obviously signing [Donte] Whitner late or earlier in the season. We needed a safety. But we're trying to mix and match and trying to fight… find that right group that can play well together. You know, [Bashaud] Breeland's been very good because he's played a little bit of safety, he's played nickel, corner, so sometimes that hurts because he doesn't get comfortable but we have faith that he can do all of them. But we're still just trying to find the right pieces and the right matchups is the big thing."
On the play of CB Quinton Dunbar:
"Yeah, Dunbar, you know, for a guy that's only played corner for a very small time in his life, I think he's done a good job. You know, we just have to continue to work with his hands, placement. You know, he had another interference call against Philadelphia, but I think he can run. He has got great length and he's got huge upside. He's still young. He's going to make some young player mistakes here and there, but I think the more he plays the better he is going to get. We're going to have to fight through some of those growing pains so to speak but I think it's going to pay off in the long run because he's got a great talent set."
On Norman's ability to stay engaged despite teams not throwing at him:
"Yeah, I think it's been great. You know, he stays engaged and when opportunity does come like on the two-point play last week, he makes a play. That's a huge play, you know, that two-point. And I think he had two targets last week and two pass break-ups. So, you know, whether they throw to him or not, that's not in his control. The only thing he can control is how he plays his man and he plays our defense and he's been great."
On his first impression of RB Chris Thompson:
"I think the one thing when you have a smaller speed-back like that, the one thing they have to handle is protection. That's the one thing that he really excited me the most about. He picked up on it, he was physical, he wasn't afraid of any contact whatsoever. Some of those guys shy away from contact, but Chris – if you really watch him in pass protection and only pass protection – he's as good as there is as far as picking up the right people, getting his body in position, center of gravity, sticking on blocks. He's been outstanding. And then when you get him out in space against linebackers, he's been good. But in the running game, he runs a lot. He can run between the tackles and obviously he's a threat outside. I've just been really impressed not only with him as a player but as a person. He works extremely hard [and] he's a great guy off the field, too."
On the differences between last season's Panthers team and this year:
"Well, last year they were hot – I mean, red hot. Cam [Newton] was putting up numbers that not many quarterbacks have in the history of the NFL, and those are hard to keep up year in and year out – especially when you have injuries on the offensive line like they've had. I think they're going through their fourth center right now. That's tough. That's like your second quarterback on offense. I think they've had to deal with some offensive line issues as far as injuries are concerned, so that's kind of hindered them a little bit. But he's still a great weapon and he's still a major, major threat every time he gets the ball in his hands, which is every snap. He's a guy that can run the zone reads, they can direct snap it to him and he can run powers, he can drop back – he threw a ball off his back foot against the Raiders about 70 yards to Ted Ginn in the air. He's got all the tools. Everything is still there, so we have to do really our best against him to contain him. Easier said than done."
On S Deshazor Everett's penalties:
"Well, the one block I thought was a clean block – the one on the punt return – I thought it was a good block. I think they fined him for it, but he was trying to make a play. He got his head in front [and] wasn't trying to hurt anybody. The one on [Darren] Sproles, he just got there a count early, you know? He just mistimed it. It is what it is. He had to pay for it, unfortunately, but he's really, really a good kid. He meant no harm by it. There was no trying to injure Sproles. We have a lot of respect for Darren Sproles and we never try to injure anybody. He just mistimed it."
On if TE Jordan Reed will play more this week:
"We hope so, but I think, again, it's just one of these deals where we have to see where he's at, see how much strength he has. He's getting better and better, but still, that's a tough injury – a Grade 3 is significant. So we'll have to wait and see how he does."
On if there is any extra precaution with Su'a Cravens' injury because he is a rookie:
"No, no, there's no more precaution with him. If he can go, he's going. That's the way it is. No, we'll wait and see. We're not going to force him in there. Obviously Su'a is a guy that if he can play, he'll play. But obviously, if he's not going to be as productive with his arm then he can't play. So we'll have to wait and see. Hopefully this thing is something that might continue to get better and then by Sunday who knows. By game time he might be good. If not, we'll get him ready for Chicago. But he's in rehab all the time and working hard at it, but we're not going to hold anything back. If the players think they can go, they go. Trainers also, obviously."
On the matchup problems Panthers TE Greg Olsen presents:
"Big time. He's big time. You talk about Kelvin [Benjamin], you talk about [Devin] Funchess, you talk about Ted Ginn and his deep threat, and obviously Jonathan Stewart is a great player, Cam with his legs. Really, Greg Olsen is the guy we really have to watch out for. He did pretty well against us the last time we played them. They can line him up single outside by himself, He can line up in the core to himself with speed on the other side. They can put him at No. 2 outside. They can line him up all over the place – in the backfield. So he's a guy we have to be aware of, and that's just half the battle. Then you have to cover him. He runs all the different routes on the route tree. It's going to be a great challenge for us. We have to know where he is. We have to disguise our intent – play some man, play some zone, play with great leverage, and do the best we can."
CB Josh Norman
Statement on the passing of Craig Sager:
"Craig Sager, he passed, didn't he? I just heard that. That's, wow. Taking a moment in myself to just… Watching him when I was growing up, wow. Coming in with all different colored jackets and just being himself, his unique self. Thousands and thousands of interviews he's done with players in that league and, you know, wow. That's a big loss to the NBA family and those guys over there. So my heart goes out to him and his family, definitely. So first and foremost I would like to let that be known."
On if he has communicated with his former Panthers teammates this week:
"I'm pretty sure they know me and how we roll and how we do things. No surrender, no mercy. I think they know that in me. So we're going to give them everything we've got just like any other opponent. And I had them in my group chat, so [I'm] looking forward to it."
On if it will be difficult to keep his emotions from getting the best of him:
"I don't know if emotions ever do because now I just let them run wild. So whatever you see is what you're going to get. But I do know how to contain it to a certain extent. But then again, I just let the fire go that's inside and I don't know how to pretty much shut it off once it gets started. So it's kind of one of those things where it's going to be a different feel. Definitely it's going to be a different feel, I know that. Just because coming in earlier in the week, I paid attention to detail and then I saw something and I was like, OK, now [that] reminds me back of practice again."
On if thinks he will be targeted more this week facing Panthers QB Cam Newton:
"I hope so. The competitor in him… Well, it's two things. Cam, the coach tell him no. Cam, the competitor, yes. So I'm looking for that guy. Just like practice."
On when he started thinking about the matchup against the Panthers:
"I really didn't until this week really. It's kind of pretty much what it all comes down to is this week because you don't want to look over ahead of your next opponent or your next one, but my brothers and familia is was kind of like, 'You know, Carolina coming up, we want to come to that game.' So, yeah, some on the way, so we'll think about it when it comes. Now, here, everybody filling up the box, so it's that much of an anticipation of the game so we're getting prepared for that just like any other team and can't, can't wait. Can't wait."
On if the Panthers' struggles in the secondary validate his play:
"I don't know. I'm kind of… I don't like to kick people when they're down so that's a thing that I don't, I haven't been taught to do. I just see how you come up in a system and you know the guys and you build that bond and everyone knew where you were at at that very moment in time. Then one of those cogs from the system absolutely, abruptly departs and then you try to fill that void and that hole, I mean, shoot, just like anything else, it's going to take time. It's not just going to pick up and go like you did before, no. So that was a situation that happened in a moment in time – can't really say much more about it than that. The one thing that I know is I'm here with the Washington Redskins and trying to help us out here in the back end. That's all I can do."
On the Panthers' struggles:
"I don't know. Like I said, I kind of… How would I say this? I don't kind of get up because people fail. I don't. I don't know why, but I don't get up because people fail. That's on them. I don't have anything to do with that. My success is determined by where I'm at and what I do for the team or organization that I'm with. I was there one point in time, had fun, was successful, but I'm here now and it's kind of like, you know, I want to be successful here more so than I do anywhere else. That's the kind of legacy I want to leave for myself is that dash that [indecipherable] talked about. You know, whatcha you going to do when you leave this Earth? And that's kind of what I want to, you know, pertain myself to."
On his assessment of his play this season:
"Well, it's been well. It's been really well, it's been really good. I know it's a lot of things that we can do better not just myself but as a whole and seeing things and coming up with more big plays that are out there for us to be had. And when my number is called, do what I can to impact the game and I've done that certain games in certain areas. I let one go here or there but it's not nothing that I can sit there and point my finger at and be like, 'Ugh, I sure wish I would have did that.' No, each and every day I come out and work hard and get better at my craft – nothing more, nothing less. That's what we do. So going into a game, I don't look for a defeat or a negative play. I look for positive plays"
On what he would say to Panthers GM Dave Gettleman:
"Well, what is to say that I haven't already said? I think I'm just beating a dead horse. It's kind of like when I speak on that, you'll hear about it in the Book of Norman one day."
On dealing with the frustration of not being targeted:
"You find a play. There's no such thing as not being a part of something, you find something. You don't sit around and pick daisies out there. You go out there and you find and look for some meat. There's always meat out there. It's depending on where you want to go to get it, but there's always meat on that bone – it's still out there. The D-linemen, they can't eat everything all day. They can't. Even though I know they want to be selfish and hog all the food from us, there's still some more morsels out there to get. So for me, I just look at it as, 'OK, so if I can't be aggressive right here or if I can't make a play right here, what can I do?' Go over there and talk to Kendall [Fuller], talk to the nickel, talk to the safety and be like, 'Hey, play up a little bit right here, see if I can't take something right here.' If I can't do that, shoot, Joe B [Joe Barry] call me a blitz. Let me come off the edge. Let's create something. That's kind of how it is, man. It comes with the territory."
On Newton claiming that Norman requires attention:
"[Laughter] I don't know if he meant it in that kind of way. He knows that I'm a player that gets up for big games in a sense. But, yeah, just look at him, though. Shoot, I'm sure he does the same thing. He gets up for big games. He knows when the spotlight is on and he's going to try and do his best. But I can go back and take it into any other sense. For him, his cousins, and his brothers – Big Cecil – they like to play me and my brothers on the offseason. He's like so-called LeBron James of his team and we're like synchronized swimmers on our team. We run plays and do everything just like we're coached to do, and we beat their tail every single time. So, little 'Bron out here but don't have a team. So it's kind of hard for him to win if you don't. So, therefore, I take solace in understanding that we kick butt and we will again this year when we go and play each other this summer."
On what he does knowing that he cannot make every play:
"I know I can't, and it sucks that I can't, because my mindset is like, 'No. Every one.' But I just have got to be disciplined, I really do. I have got to understand and know what's coming to me and how to play it and how teams are trying to attack us. Once I've learn that and understand and can pick and choose my times in which to make plays here and there, I do that. But the same token, shoot, if you kind of put me on one side and just not throw the ball, it's hard to do. But then again, I have got to stay on top because 69 plays – all good plays – but that one 70 is the one they're going to talk about if I get beat. So I try not to let that happen, but if it does, I come back next week and get better from it."
On if has been able to show more of his game this year:
"I think so. The Arizona game, shoot, I played primarily slot, so for people who say I can't do that, I can go back and put on film. We do that, and we are successful at it, and I had a lot of fun. That's probably was the funnest game I have played this year. Coming back the next week with the Eagles, I just played primarily outside, and no action. So it was kind of whatever you want to do, I'm all around within the system of a coach who wants me to play whatever. I don't argue back. I don't say, 'Do this and do that.' If Coach tells me to go run through this B-gap, I'm going to put my facemask through the B-gap. That's what we're going to do and we're going to be successful at it."
On if there is another level of fire in him:
"Oh, if there was another level, I think all of these cameras would be burned right now. But, I don't know. I think come Monday night, those emotions I think they will probably come out and show themselves. I don't know what it'll be because, like I said, it's my first time being in something like this. And, yeah, coming over here is making guys on this team better, you know? Making the defensive line more hungry, making the linebackers play downhill and drop out in a coverage, making the secondary break on the ball and make plays, man. Not so much going out and letting the offense lead us, but the defense lead us. And that's the type of pedigree we're trying to build in here and that's the mindset that I have. The fire that's inside me come out more and it touches everybody that's in the group. And I try to do that. And every time you hear people from the outside bringing their noise about you, I mean, that's outside noise. They burn their fire wherever they want to but mine's going to be here in this building and touch whoever I can to be successful. Even little Deshazor [Everett] came in and made a big play the other day. We worked with him Shoot, he came out there and balled just like anybody else could. And that's what you do. You come and you teach guys. You don't hog it and keep it to yourself. That's why I try to be a leader in that aspect and help guys out where they need be. And so be it, that's how I am."