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Quotes: Jay Gruden And Kirk Cousins (10.21.15)

Head Coach Jay Gruden

Opening statement:

"Did not participate: D-Hall, toe; [Chris] Culliver, knee; DeSean [Jackson], hamstring; [Kory] Lichtensteiger, neck; Chris Thompson, back; [Jason] Hatcher, knee; Keenan Robinson, heel. Limited was Jordan Reed, Trent Williams and [Stephen] Paea. Full was [Bashaud] Breeland, Matt Jones, Trenton Robinson and that's it. And [Ty] Nsekhe was full."

On C Kory Lichtensteiger's injury:

"It's his disc area."

On the prognosis with that injury:

"You know, we're not sure yet. The goal for him is just to get stronger and get some strength the back on the left side of his arm. It's not a serious deal where he's threatened paralyzation or anything like that, it's just a matter of getting strength back on his left side. And he's coming along pretty good. I don't know how long though."

On if both TE Jordan Reed and T Trent Williams are cleared from the concussion protocol:

"They're still in it. They're just progressing in the protocol. They're allowed to practice, go to meetings. As long as they don't have any setbacks, we'll see how it goes."

On if Reed and Williams are cleared for contact:

"No."

On his expectations for WR DeSean Jackson this week:

"This week? Not very high, not very high. I think the goal is to try to get him back going, running and all that stuff, get him some rest and see how he is after the bye, but you never know. He felt pretty good today. We'll get him some more running tomorrow. It's a long shot, but there's a chance."

On LB Keenan Robinson:

"He's just got a sore heel. It just bothered him with his shoe on today and some discomfort there so we kept him out."

On if he is worried about Robinson's status for Sunday:

"No, I don't think so, but we'll have to wait and see tomorrow how he's doing."

On how C Josh LeRibeus played last Sunday:

"He did some good things. You know, the first time playing center, starting at the center position, I think he did some good things. He communicated pretty well. Obviously, when you look at the grades of all the offensive linemen, nobody graded as an A, but for his first time playing center, there were some positive things there, things he can get better at, but I think he can build off his performance. The biggest issue were some of the snaps. We've just got to get some of the snaps under control a little bit and then finishing some blocks." 

On WR Jamison Crowder being able to throw the ball away on a double pass last Sunday:

"Well, you know, we tried a double pass and obviously it didn't work. Their linebacker lucked out and made a heck of a play [laughter]. We threw a little screen over there to Crowder, one we always run and we tried to leak our halfback out down the right sideline and their linebacker was in man to man and stayed with him. And Crowder did a nice job of throwing it away. It wasn't there and that's what he was supposed to do, so good decision by him, but unfortunately it didn't work."

On if the struggles in the running game are related to blocking or missed opportunities by running backs:

"Well, it's a little bit and then some of it's the defenses that we've played. This was a big, strong, physical Jet defense that covered up all the linemen and had the outside backers on the outside. It was a tough defense to run against, quite frankly but still, we have to do a better job of getting some movement and the backs have to do a good job of sticking their foot in the ground and making some positive yards, so it's a combination. I can't pinpoint it on one area, one group, one person. I think it's a combination of some of it is scheme also. One time we ran into a free safety blitz. You can't do that. So, for the most part, we're going to continue to work on our running game and we'll get some better looks. It starts this week. Our guys have been issued a challenge and hopefully, they'll rise up to it and get our running game back on track because we have to. You know, like I've said before, the team that we have, we need to get a running game going."

On if CB Chris Culliver had an MRI on his knee:

"Yes."

On if Culliver needs surgery:

"No, no. He's just having some things done to it to hopefully relieve the issue and get him where he feels more comfortable to play. He's still dealing with some pain and we're trying to alleviate that pain."

On QB Kirk Cousins' ability on off-schedule plays:

"We haven't had many off-schedule plays, scramble plays, unscripted plays. That's fine, that doesn't always happen. You'd love to have a couple big plays in that regard. I think that will come hopefully. When he can step up, maneuver in the pocket, scramble outside the pocket and find some guys down the field and that's receivers working for him, working with him, also getting open down the field. But we just haven't had any, hopefully we will get some here coming up."

On the recent performance by the special teams units:

"I think you start with the kicker [Dustin Hopkins] and he's been outstanding. Kicking the ball off, making field goals, his onside kicks – they're like magic balls, I don't know he keeps them in play. I don't know how we haven't recovered one yet. He's an amazing onside kicker, but he's done excellent. Tress [Way] has come on and had a couple good weeks of punting. [Nick] Sundberg has done a nice job snapping. And then the units themselves have done a pretty good job for the most part despite having guys filled in in different key spots. [Kyshoen] Jarrett is playing a lot. JJ – Jeron Johnson – is playing a lot, he's doing some good things. We've got some guys, Mason Foster stepped in and is doing some good things. I think as a unit they're doing pretty good. We've had two touchdowns, which is excellent. Unfortunately they've come at times when we were down by 20 points. You like to see some production there and we've had some. Now we need some more out of the punt return game. When we do get an opportunity to return the ball on a kickoff, we'd like to get better blocking obviously. We've limited big plays for the last couple weeks as far as punt coverage, done good, kickoff coverage."

On possible solutions to third quarter struggles:

"Yeah, we're working on it. I think a lot of it is, A) we've got to play better, B) we have to make sure we don't lose any intensity as a group, as a staff. We've had leads five out of six games going into halftime. You don't have much time to change your game plan, but you do have time to get your team re-motivated, get them up for the second half, review some of the things that happened in the first half and then preview some of the things that are going to happen. We've just got to get our guys up. For whatever reason we have not had the same energy level and the same production in the third and fourth quarter as we have in the first two quarters. We're going to address our play calling, our defensive play calling and our schemes and go from there. Also, our players have to rise up and make some plays too. It goes hand-in-hand. A lot of it falls on my shoulders and it trickles down from there."

On the challenge in converting third downs without Reed:

"It's a challenge because he's a mismatch no matter how you cut it. You could put a corner on him and then that'll leave somebody else is open. If you put a safety on him, he wins. If you play man-to-man, if you play zone he's matched up, he's great at finding holes in zones and running choice routes and option routes. He's an issue for a defense. When he's not in there, it takes a little bit off of your plate as far as your play call, your formations, your schemes. It takes a lot off, to be honest with you. When you have a great tight end, you look at other teams with the very good tight ends, and when they're in the game and the problems they cause for an opposing [defense], you can see it. When they're not in the game it's different. But when he's not in the game like he wasn't last week, we need to make sure other guys are figuring out ways to get open in zones and separating versus man. We didn't do a very good job of quarterbacks recognizing zones and knowing where to go, receivers getting open, finding the holes, all that. It's a combination of things, other guys have got to step up. We just hadn't done that the last two weeks without him."

On if FB Darrel Young could line up at tight end:

"He's never really done that. He's more of an I-back, strong in the backfield type of guy. I'm sure he could do it, he's a very athletic guy. Those tight ends are longer, taller, longer with length to handle outside linebackers and the blocks and all that. Not saying he can't do it, and that's something we could look at, but we haven't asked him to do that. We like him as far as going downhill on linebackers or chipping off the defensive ends up to the next level. He's pretty athletic, but as far as in the core, blocking guys right up on them, that's pretty difficult for a fullback to do."

On RB Matt Jones:

"Matt looked good today. He practiced well when he did practice. We have high hopes for him. Like I said, with these injuries, Wednesdays they come out here and they run around a little bit and they look pretty good. Then Thursday morning when they come into treatment, let's see how it's progressing. Then we add more on their plate on Thursday. Friday the same thing and then we'll make a decision Friday after practice and worst case Saturday morning. I think it's indicating that he's going to be able to go unless he has a setback like DeSean did last week."

On what can be done as an offense to stop the defense from keying in on the run:

"You're going to have to throw it. You're going to have to take some shots downfield obviously. We tried to do that a couple times and failed. When we did run it, we were stuck in second-and-eight which takes away your play-actions and your bootlegs and all that stuff. You're relegated to some drop-back passing. We tried some quick games to get ourselves in the third-and-makeable. Sometimes we made them and sometimes we didn't. There's things we have to do a better job of mixing up our play calls. I think we ran it and threw it about half-and-half on first down last week. So we did a good job of mixing it up, we just weren't very productive. We weren't able to keep drives alive. Against the New York Jets, I think if you play them again, I think you need to have some big plays in that game. To drive the ball 15 plays and 80 yards is tough. We just didn't get the big play shots that we would like to get."

On if there have been changes in the NFL concussion protocol in recent years:

"Well, it has changed because you have the independent doctor that they have to go to now. Once they get out of our building, they go to the independent doctor that we have nothing to do with. They go through all the tests here, go through all the process and then they have to go see him. They go through all the tests with him. He makes the final call basically. I think we'll just have to wait and see where the symptoms are and then they'll make the final determination when they're cleared."

On when Reed and Williams are scheduled to see the independent neurologist:

"You know, I don't even know. Probably Thursday or Friday, that's usually the way it goes. They're able to start practice with the team and slowly implement some contact and go from there. I think if everything is cleared, there's a pretty good chance they play. But it's got to be symptom free. They have to pass the tests and all that stuff."

On when they can practice with some contact:

"There's different stages of concussion deal. You know, when they first get it, there's no contact, and when they get cleared, then they're allowed some contact, a little bit here and there, and then they continue through the process. You know, that's where they are."

On if the concussion protocol is accomplishing its goal of keeping players as safe as possible:

"I think so. I think that's important. You know, as a coach sometimes, you get frustrated, like 'Man, he looks fine,' but really you want to be safe with these guys. We know the history of the concussions and all that and what problems that they can cause. We want them to be right. We want them to be totally clear of any symptoms before they step out onto the field. I think we're going through the right process. I think the league is taking a serious stance on it and it's a good thing to do."

On how big Sunday's game is:

"Well, it's big. Obviously, I made that point pretty clear to everybody and I know it's big for them. Every game should be treated like that. You only get 16 of these things. They're all equally as important, but when you're 2-4 and you're getting pushed into the corner a little bit, I think there comes a point in time where you've got to really fight. That's where we are right now. We are getting backed into a corner right now and I hope our guys come out swinging. I know they will. I know I will. We'll lead the charge and get them ready, but I know the Buccaneers are in a similar situation. They're behind in their division a little bit. They've got some excellent players on their football team, a young quarterback, they've got two first-ballot Pro Bowlers on their defense, two big receivers and an excellent running back and it'll be a great game."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On his performance against the Jets:

"I don't think it was a great performance. You know, it was a lot of different reasons, a lot of different things going on, but it wasn't what we wanted. We're better than that and we will be better than that going forward. I do want to credit the Jets. They had a good plan and they have great players and a really good team. They're 4-1 for a reason. We certainly ran into a good challenge. We can be much better and we will be much better going forward."

On how TE Jordan Reed can help the offense, particularly on third downs:

"He can make a difference. He's a talented player, great teammate. It'll be great to have him back if he can be healthy and be out there, so I'm excited to have him back, excited to get him healthy. He can really help our offense."

On the importance of this game for his confidence:

"I'd love to go out there and have a great game and go into the bye week feeling good about what we're doing. I feel like the Buccaneers are going to come in here and they have a plan too, so it's going to be a great challenge and it's a great opportunity. We certainly want to get the bad taste out of our mouths from the past two weeks, and no better way to do it than to go out and play well and get a win."

On if the state of the NFC East is giving the team hope it can make a run at some point:

"It's just so early. We were saying that when we were 2-2 or when we were 1-1, it's so early that anything can happen. I've been a part of a team as you know in 2012 that won seven straight when people had basically ruled us out. We won the division and had a home playoff game, so I've learned that anything can happen and it's so important to take it one week at a time. Just focus on going 1-0 each week and then see where you are near the end, but if we do that, I think we'll be there."

On if he showed enough patience in letting plays develop last week:

"I don't know. I mean, every play is its own entity. I'm sure there were times where I could've progressed. There were times where I could've stayed with a guy. It all depends on the read and the play. I think I'm getting the ball out of my hand and we're not getting sacked a lot. Typically when you get the ball out of your hand, that means you are getting rid of it, you are staying with guys, you're making the throws. Every play is its own entity and I think the key is to just look at each individual situation and preparation and what we can do better. If we do that, I think we'll have better results going forward."
On evaluating his decision making last week:

"I think there was certainly some decisions that can be better. I think there were some times where I made very good reads and very good decisions. You know, what can be tough is that best decision, like I said before, may be throwing it out of bounds. It may not be what the fans want to see. It may not be what the defense wants to see, but it may be the best decision for the situation. I think I'll continue to grow in the decision-making process as I get to play longer and get more experience. I'm excited about that growth and that opportunity to continue to understand the game more and more."

On the level of urgency in the locker room about the game this week:

"It's important, Mike. They're all important. We don't feel like… I don't think it's going to help us to hit the panic button. I don't think it's going to help us to be completely relaxed. I think in the middle lies virtue. You've got to have a balance. We're taking it very, very seriously. We know how important it is, but at the same time if we start to act like we're hitting the panic button, we're all going to tighten up and we're going to struggle. We're always trying to find that perfect balance of the right mindset. I think we as professionals understand what it takes. I do think we have a good group of guys in the locker room who do have the right amount of focus."

On the challenge of finding that perfect balance:

"I don't know that there's any secret formula. I don't know that I have it all figured. You just kind of have a general feel after all these years of playing of the state of focus you need to have and the preparation. I think when you have veterans, guys who have been there before and played and won and been a part of winning teams and been in the playoffs and that kind of thing, that helps kind of steer the team in the right direction as far as having maturity and focus."

On what can be done to improve the running game:

"I think it's a combination of securing blocks, combination of maybe making guys miss, making something out of nothing. It could be play calls. Maybe we want to say, 'Oh, we could have called this, it would have been much better than this.' It could be me too, just saying, 'Hey, you know we had this call but can I check to something different?' I think everybody, whether it's coach, quarterback, offensive line, running back, receiver – we're all looking critically at ourselves saying, 'Wwhat can I do better to help the run game and help our overall offense?' If everyone does that, which I think we're all doing, the mistakes will hopefully get corrected and turn into better results." 

On how he blocks out critics:

"The way that I don't listen to what they're saying is I don't listen to what they're saying. I turn on NPR instead of 106.7 or 980 sometimes. I turn on HGTV instead of ESPN. I think there are times where you can intentionally block it out if you're asking how to do that. I don't have a lot of social media on my phone. So it's not quite as accessible to me as maybe it is to some other guys. There are ways that you can not hear it. It doesn't do me any good to hear that. I know what's at stake. I know how important it is to me and to the people around me and to this fan base. I want nothing more than to help this team get to a place with a lot of wins and a playoff berth and all that. I'm heart-attack serious about making this happen. It takes time. It's going to take some work and we'll see where we are down the stretch here."

On the positives of being a consistent starter:

"There's a rhythm, a weekly rhythm. It has helped to be in that routine and to play, good or bad, to come back from a win or a loss and evaluate the game film when you're the guy playing and then get back into a weekly rhythm of preparation for the next team. You don't feel the growth week in, week out, but when I look back now after seven weeks, I do feel like I've grown as a player. That's encouraging. Seven more weeks from now, I think I'll be even further down the road. Just keep working and keep going. Trust the process and let the results take care of themselves."

On how he the team can maintain intensity entering the third quarter:

"That's a great question. I have been preaching and Trent [Williams] was preaching the last couple of games at halftime, 'Hey, third quarter, third quarter has been tough for us for whatever reason, let's make sure we come out inspired. Let's make sure we come out with an edge to us.' So it wasn't for lack of preaching it. It wasn't for lack of emphasis. But, yeah, maybe there is, when you have a lead, maybe you get a little comfortable. I don't know. So I think it's important for us to this week have an edge to us. I've been pleased with the way we've come out in the first quarter of these games. I think we've had a very good record if the game ended at halftime. If we can put together two halves we'd be in a much better place. I think that's the emphasis going forward is what can we do at halftime to really keep our edge. I'm sure everybody will be looking at that third quarter come this week."

On Tampa Bay's defense:

"I've got a lot of respect for the coaching staff with Coach [Lovie] Smith and Coach [Leslie] Frazier, all the way down to the players and their depth. They've got guys who can play. I played against Lavonte David in college and played with him at the Senior Bowl. He's only gone up and up and up. He keeps getting better. You know, Gerald McCoy is one of the best 3-techniques in the league, maybe the best or is the best. You know, they have a great pass rush. They're built for speed. They're fast and they're going to be all over the field playing fast, so we respect them and what they do. It's going to take a good amount of work this week to be ready for them."

On if last year's game against Tampa Bay has value for this weekend:

"Yeah, when the coaching staff stays the same, I think there's always value in going back and watching the previous year's game no matter who you're playing. So, we do peek at that. Obviously now that we're this far along into the season you have plenty of games to go off of from this season that you can really to get a good feel."

On if there's added pressure to perform well this weekend against Tampa Bay:

I think there's always pressure to play well. When you play in the NFL as a quarterback in a place like Washington, D.C., there's going to be that pressure, but it's so important to apply pressure, not feel it. I think when you allow yourself to feel that pressure it can create you know the wrong outcome. So, I try to focus on applying pressure, not feeling it, and you do that by working really hard, being on top of what you got and really being a great competitor. When you do that, you hope that things will fall together.

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