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Quotes: Head Coach Jay Gruden, Quarterback Kirk Cousins (11-30-2016)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On the injury report:

"Alright, did not participate: Anthony Lanier, lower leg; Jordan Reed, shoulder. Limited: [Terence] Garvin, shoulder; Ricky Jean Francois, knee; Ty Nsekhe, ankle; Brandon Scherff, ankle. Full: [Will] Blackmon, thumb; DeSean [Jackson], shoulder; [Nick] Sundberg, back."

On if the injuries are maintenance-related or a cause for concern:

"You know, I don't know. I don't try to predict injuries. I've just got to let them go to the training room and get their treatment and then come Thursday, Friday, we'll see where they are. The good thing is we feel like we have good depth so if some of these guys can't go, guys behind them are going to step up and play well. That's the only way we can go about it."

On how TE Jordan Reed is progressing:

"Slowly, he didn't do a lot today. He's in a lot of pain, but like I said, he's got a few days here to really get in the training room and try to make it feel as comfortable as possible before game time and we'll just have to make a decision come Friday or Saturday."

On if Reed will require surgery:

"No, no surgery. No."

On what makes the Cardinals' defense so strong:

"Well, they have good athletes across the board. Obviously the addition of Chandler Jones helped them in the pass-rush department. They have good run-stoppers, and then they have quality corners. I think [Marcus] Cooper and Patrick Peterson are a great tandem back there. You throw in the fact the Honey Badger [Tyrann Mathieu] is an all-around good football player... They run to the ball, they pursue, and they do a nice job all across the board. They have a good blitz package also."

On how he manages CB Josh Norman's 'fire':

"Well, I think each player is different and each situation is different. You have to manage them in their own category for each player and individual when they do come up. As far as Josh is concerned, I don't really think there's been an issue as far as off the field that I've really had to manage a whole lot, to be honest with you. There's a couple Twitter battles that I really don't even read anyway. But as far as on the field is concerned, I love his competition. I love the way he plays [and] his passion for the game. He has got one penalty, and that was shooting a bow-and-arrow on our sideline, which shouldn't have been a penalty, quite frankly, and he rolled the ball on the delay of game. So he's got two penalties. But for the most part, he's an accountable guy. He's here, he works hard, and he plays extremely hard with a lot of passion. So I haven't really had to do a whole lot for him."

On what he will do to 'fire up' the team and make sure it matches the Cardinals' sense of urgency:

"Well, we don't have a choice. We have to stay fired up. This is the time of year… I mean, you get 16 cracks at it, so I think every game you have to be fired up to be a pro football player. That what makes the good teams great and the not-so-good teams not-so-good is the ability to come out week-in and week-out and play with great energy and great passion for the game with a sense of urgency. That's what we have to do. This is a good football team that we're playing, I don't care what their record is, they are a very good football team. If you go 13-3 not too long ago, you have good players – Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, [David] Johnson – I mean it goes on-and-on the list of players that they have offensively and defensively. We have to get geared up. It's at their place. It has always been a tough place to play. If we don't get geared up, it'll be a long day."

On if the extra rest this week provided extra energy at practice today:

"I think it did, it helped a lot for the guys. I just saw the energy from play-to-play, the one-on-one battles. You could see the energy was there –fresh legs, so to speak. It was good to have those three days off. It was a grind, three games [in] 11 days was tough on these guys, but to give them three days off and a sharp practice on Monday, and then another day off – so four out of the last five days they've been off – it was good for everybody, including the coaches."

On if he looks to get the running game back on track this week:

"Always, always. We always look to try to get it on track. It's score dependent, obviously, play dependent, but we always want to get the running game going. Robert Kelley has done a great job with the reps that he's gotten and we have to continue to get him going. We like the tempo our offense plays with when we have the running game going – it helps our play-actions obviously [and] our big plays. Our quick passing has been very, very good. Our third down-and-two-to-five conversion rate is probably through the roof. That's because we can run the ball and keep the down-and-distance in manageable situations. That's very important to us, we just didn't do a great job of it against Dallas, but we're not going to give up on it."

On his level of confidence in K Dustin Hopkins:

"I'm not going to waver on my level of confidence. I have confidence if we have fourth down and we need to kick the field goal, we'll kick the field goal. There might be a situation where I go for it – last week we went for it on fourth-and-two in field goal range because I thought we needed a touchdown there. I'm not going to say I'm not going to kick a field goal because I'm afraid he's going to miss it. If we need the points, we're going to kick it."

On if he is confident in both Hopkins' ability and his mental state:

"Yeah, I'm fine. He's fine. Yeah, he's fine."

On improving the defense's red zone efficiency:

"Well, I think it's… Offensively, defensively when you're talking about a situation where you're not performing as well as you should, I think it's a team thing and I think it's an execution thing. I think sometimes it could be a schematic thing where we might have to change some things up. So, I think it's going to be team-dependent whether you want to load up the box against this team or play more coverage against this team, so it'll be team-dependent, depending on who we on play. But execution has got to be at a premium down there. Offensively, tight windows, you're going to have to make some tight=window throws and some great catches and break a tackle because there are going to be some free hitters in the hole down in the red zone. So, number one, we've got to check out our execution, and number two, we've got to check out our scheme and just continue to keep working."

On the play of CB Kendall Fuller:

"Well, I think as a young football player, he's growing. And he's not going to be perfect, nor is anyone on our football team, but I like the ways he plays. He plays with great effort. He's a smart football player. He has just got to continue to work on his technique and I think that'll come with time. Whether it's outside leverage, inside leverage, off technique, whatever it is, zone technique, all that stuff is just repetition, repetition, repetition. The more he gets, the better he is going to be.

On the challenges WR Larry Fitzgerald presents in the slot:

"A lot. He's presented challenges for everybody in the NFL when he moves inside or outside. He's a Hall of Fame receiver, so he's a great player. He uses his size, he uses his physicality and nobody talks about what a blocker he is. He's the best blocker in the NFL as a wide receiver and it's not even close. So he's just a great all-around football player. We're just going to have to man up and body him up and try to get physical with him."

On if Norman could potentially cover Fitzgerald in the slot:

"He could in certain situations, there's no doubt about it, and we have the luxury of possibly matching him up, and [Bashuad] Breeland is a physical corner. That's why we like the guys that we have and Kendall is actually a physical corner also, so we have physical corners. And of course [Quinton] Dunbar is a big, physical guy, so we have guys that can hopefully man up against him and make some plays but it's going to start with the pass rush. If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and give Larry time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don't care how big you are or how fast you are, it's going to be hard."

On matching up with RB David Johnson:

"Big time challenge, big time challenge because when you think of a guy that can move outside and catch the ball, you think of a little scat-back type guy that doesn't run between the tackles, but he runs between the tackles as good as he catches the ball. I mean, he is probably the best all-around back there is in the National Football League right now as far as being able to move outside, be a great route runner but also run between the tackles and run outside with his speed. So it's going to be a matchup problem. He's been a matchup problem for everybody this year. He's got 950 yards rushing and he's got nine touchdowns and a bunch of catches, so like I said, when you have great players like that, you study them, you study their scheme, you try to match up, mix up your intent – man, zone, all that stuff – and you do the best you can and try to get your pass rush home." 

On if he was surprised by Johnson's performance as a third-round pick:

"I think a lot of backs, for whatever reason, with the exception of Zeke [Ezekiel Elliott] are going a little bit later. In Cincinnati, we got Gio [Giovani Bernard] in the second and Le'Veon Bell I think went in the second. So there's been some great players to go in the second and third round. I don't know if it's based on because of the position or what. Plus, he came from a smaller school, Northern Iowa. I think he played in the Senior Bowl, did a great job. Had some great tape out there, but, you know, just didn't go until the third. Hindsight, he probably would've gone [as a] top-five pick."

On if the team can draw on its success from last December:

"That's a great point. And I think we were 5-7 and ended up winning our last four. So, we understand the importance of the last four or five games around here, whether you're in position to control your own destiny or not. And there's a lot of teams that have the ability to make the playoffs this year in the NFC so right now we're in a great position, but we have to finish it. And we finished strong last year and hopefully that will carry over to this year, but we still have to go out and do it. I like the fact that it feels like we're ascending. I know we lost last week but I feel like we're playing good football right now. There are some things we have to shore up… Everybody's for the most part healthy. We have some injuries like a lot of teams do, but the nucleus of our football team is OK. So we feel good where we're at. We just have to go out and execute and get the tough wins on the road."

On if QB Kirk Cousins can specifically draw on that success:

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think he can draw on that. But I think he's more of a game-by-game type guy, team-by-team, how to attack certain opponents and just continue to work on his craft. And great quarterbacks will continue to get better. The better they get in December are what makes great quarterbacks, quite frankly."

QB Kirk Cousins

On if he feels like games are slowing down for him:

"I think I'm improving as a quarterback, which is no surprise – you expect to get better the longer you work at your craft. I hesitate to use a blanket statement to just say the game's slowing down. I think I'm just improving by nature of continuing to work and get better. Sean [McVay] is doing a great job calling plays. We've got a lot of players on the outside who are making plays for us. The O-line is protecting well. It all has to work together to create production, so I'm just going to continue working and hopefully continue improving."

On if his experience has helped him handle situations he's seen before:

"There's certainly some experiences I have that I say having been here before and knowing what the right decision is or what the right outcome should be, I can make a better, more informed decision with the football this time around. And that's where experience is a big asset now as a quarterback."

On what impresses him about Arizona's defense:

"Well, first of all, they're just an experienced, mature football team. They've won a lot of playoff games, they've been to the playoffs a lot and it's a tough place to play there in Arizona. Just good football players. And it's not just one area. I mean, they have a good pass rush, good interior D-linemen, great linebackers and a great secondary that has playmakers. So they can get you in all different phases of the game. And it'll be a big challenge for us, but the numbers speak for themselves with their defense with what they're doing statistically and we'll have a big challenge in front of us."

On if his 2014 game at Arizona feels like 'several lifetimes ago':

"It was certainly a little while ago and there's been a lot of football since then, but that'll be a game that I'll always remember as one that didn't go our way – didn't go my way – and one of those games where you learn from it and you say, 'Tough times don't last, tough people do. To be able to come back from this I've got to choose to be mentally and physically tough coming back from that game.' I'm just glad that here we are with another opportunity to go back there a couple of seasons later."

On what has surprised him the most about TE Vernon Davis:

"When a player plays for two different teams and then becomes a free agent, and we picked him up, you always wonder what's left in the tank if two teams have allowed him to leave. But from the day he showed up, I think I've said this before, at a high school in April we were throwing and I realized right away this guy can still play. I'm still trying to figure out what the catch is or why two teams let him go. Not only can he still run – I don't know what his 40 would be now, but elite, elite. I mean, the 40 of an elite wide receiver – he can block, he's smart, he's a great teammate, he's a good mentor for a guy like Jordan [Reed]. I mean, the list goes on and on of these positives. It's just been a joy to play with him and have him on the team. And with the injuries that Jordan's sustained, he's become even more valuable needing to step up and be a difference maker. So just thrilled that Scot [McCloughan] would have the foresight to bring him in and it proved to be a really smart move."

On if there are things he can draw upon from facing the Cardinals two years ago:

"Yeah, things do change over two years, but because they've been a very stable organization with some really good players, there is some consistency. Some of those players are still there. We do take, I guess, having had that experience, we just take confidence from the fact we've been there and we've played in that environment. But with a new defensive coordinator – Coach [Todd] Bowles moved on to the Jets – it's a little bit different. But, no, it's still a very similar philosophy and scheme and players at the end of the day. Ultimately we've got to win our matchups."

On if Arizona's defense uses different fronts than most teams and how he can prepare for that:

"Yeah, they do a good job with their fronts and with their pressures. They have many different players who are all good athletes so they can rotate a lot of different people in and they don't have much of a dropoff. So there's good talent there, and they're a top defense for a reason. Once again, we've got to have good practices this week, we've got to be focused in the film room and really communicating well to all be on the same page come Sunday afternoon."

On repeating the success he and the team had last December:

"You know, we always talk about – whether it's a lift or a practice or a game or a season – start fast and finish strong. And now we have an opportunity with five games to go to finish strong. I've always believed that people may forget how you start, but they always remember how you finish, and what a great opportunity for us. It's not going to be easy, it's going to be a challenge, but we've positioned ourselves now to have a great opportunity to finish strong and time will tell what ends up happening."

On the cleats he will wear for the NFL's 'My Cause, My Cleats' campaign:

"The NFL has got a Week 13 opportunity, you can wear whatever cleats you want. They take the reins off a little bit. So the charity I've always partnered with and tried to support as best I can is International Justice Mission. From the 'You Like That' game, we were able to give the money raised from the T-shirts to IJM and I've always wanted to get behind them. So I'll be wearing cleats with the blue of the color of their organization and just the IJM logo on one cleat and 'Until All Are Free,' their slogan, which is on the hat as well, on the other cleat. It's just a cool opportunity to support their work."

On why he chose to support International Justice Mission:

"First of all, going back to high school… Gary Haugen, the founder of IJM, spoke at my church in high school and I walked out of the service that day saying to myself if I ever have the opportunity to support him and his work I will do that because of how powerful his testimony and the testimony of his organization was. So it goes back to when I was 17 years old. But they're going into the darkest, most-depressed places in the world and freeing people from slavery, from human trafficking, from injustices. And they are a voice for people who don't have a voice. And they're creating justice and a legal system for places that don't have one. It's powerful stuff to hear the testimonies of the people who they've rescued. What's also neat is Gary lives five minutes from Redskins Park. His organization was founded in 1997 with him and an intern in Crystal City. And they're still there in Crystal City now with hundreds of employees worldwide. So the fact they're based in D.C. I think is a natural fit and an organization I really want to get behind for as long as I'm playing this game and beyond."

On having the lowest three-and-out percentage in the league:

"I never noticed it prior to this season, but a few weeks into the season, I went over to Tress Way and said, 'How many times have you punted? We're not really using you on the field and you're one of our better players, but we're not really using you.' And he said, 'Yeah, Kirk, actually we've punted the fewest in the league.' And I actually asked him, I said, 'Traditionally, how many punts a season are there for good offenses? Who are the top offenses [and] is there a correlation between the top teams, the top passing games, and the fewest punts?' And he said, 'Typically there is a correlation.' And so I said, 'Well, let's see at the end of the year where we are and I hope you have as few punts as possible.' From what I understand, I check in with him every couple of weeks – our lockers are next to each other so it makes it easy – but he told me, as of a couple of weeks ago, we're still right up there with Atlanta and Green Bay and New England and some of those teams with the fewest punts in the league. We've talked about it many times, and ultimately it's all about points. It doesn't really matter if you're not coming away with points. That's where the red zone and things like that are more important. But it's an indication of doing some good things on offense and not having three-and-outs certainly keeps Tress Way on the sideline more often than not."

On his plan to eat all of the barbeque sent for winning FedEx Air Player of the Week:

"So, FedEx sent that to Rob Kelley and myself. They ended up – smart of them – they said, 'We're going to send it to nine other guys who we felt contributed to both the air and ground contributions that day.' So everybody from the offensive line, to Vernon [Davis] and Jordan [Reed], to the receivers… So there were, like, nine other guys there in that pile of boxes, but we all have a box marked perishable, and I think they put them in the freezer today, so we have got to pick them up on the way out and we'll have plenty of barbeque the next few days to eat for each of us. But that was a cool bonus. Last year, we won the FedEx Air and Ground a couple times and I didn't get anything. So it was cool to get something this time, thanks to FedEx."

On being a fan of Hamilton:

"I don't know all the words, but I'm a big Broadway fan. I love musical theater – my mom kind of raised me on that. When the Super Bowl was in New York City a couple of years ago, I went to a Broadway show and just was blown away. I went to the Chicago Theater a lot growing up. With *Hamilton *now being out, I talked to, I believe it was Vernon, who said he had been and I said I wanted to go see that. I had seen Rob Riggle's spoof on it with Jimmy Garoppolo. So that's the next one to go see, but I have a long list of offseason musicals to see. I don't know if I'll get up to New York City enough to see them. I would like to get down to the D.C. theater as well. Tony [Wyllie] has tried to hook me up with a couple of opportunities down there. When I find some free time, that's something I like to do."

On what other Broadway shows he would like to see:

"Oh, man, I saw Motown. I would love to see Lion King. I would love to see Book of Mormon. *I would love to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat *again – I saw that as a kid. Really, they're all good. I saw *Jersey Boys *in college [and] *Wicked. *Singing and dancing, man, those guys are athletic. They're talented. I kind of sit there and go, 'Wow, this is pretty cool.' So I feel like the fan in the stands when I go to a musical and it's a cool experience for me."

On if he maintains his 'toughness and manhood' when signing showtunes in the locker room:

"You know, I know in our culture they say that singing and dancing may not be the most masculine thing to do, but for whatever reason, when I was growing up, my mom and my dad they raised me to be secure in yourself and to just appreciate it. So I have a huge appreciation for singing and dancing. And, again, those guys are very athletic and they can do some impressive things. So I enjoy it for what it is and was raised to appreciate it. It's not easy what they do. It takes the kind of practice and intensity and focus that we have to have on the football field too."

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