HC Kevin Stefanski (8.27.23)

Opening Statement: 

“Okay, injuries from yesterday just update. Jakeem (Grant) is going to be out for the season with that knee. Very, very disappointed for Jakeem. To see a guy that works so hard to come back from the previous injuries. I marvel at his strength, and I know his teammates do as well, so that’s a tough one. Jordan Kunaszyk has a knee injury, that’ll be multiple weeks. We’ll update you guys as we go on that. I mentioned yesterday, Denzel (Ward) is in the concussion protocol. We’ll update you as he progresses through that. And then Marquise Goodwin is going to come off of NFI, which is great news for Marquise, great news for us. As you all see, he’s been involved in everything. In the meeting room, on the practice field, during those games. He’s such a supportive teammate, and so to have him progressing to where he can start to get ready for the season, I think is outstanding. I won’t have a ton of details as it gets going, but just to be able to bring him off that list and start to get him into practice, I think is a huge boost for him and for us. So, I’m excited for him. But with that, I’ll take any questions.”


Can you address did it turn out to be the broken patella for Jakeem (Grant), or was it torn or do you know exactly what it was and how does that impact your return game going forward?

“I don’t have all the details on the specifics of the injury, Mary Kay (Cabot). Yeah. Obviously, we had high hopes for Jakeem as our returner. We have internal candidates. You know, we’ll always be looking for external candidates as well. So, things that we’re working through right now.”


With Denzel (Ward), I think this is officially his fourth concussion since he’s been in the league. The way he plays, the physical style he plays, is there a concern? How much do you as a team have to address with the long-term concerns, balancing the number of concussions he has with the way he plays that position? 

“Yeah. Chris, as you can imagine, all of our players, you want to play as safely as possible in this sport. I think Denzel does that along with all of our guys. You know there’s been such a big push to make this game safer and I think we are, as a league making it safer every single year. So that’ll always be something that we talk about internally with our players, really all the time. But as it relates to this, it’s just he’s in the concussion protocol and we’ll just progress him as the protocol sees fit.”


I know you didn’t want to get too much into specifics as far as Marquise (Goodwin) goes, but just do you have at least an estimation of how much time now that he’s going to be off NFI it’s going to take him to get ready so that he can participate this season? 

“It’s so hard to say, Daryl (Ruiter). I would tell you, he’s worked very hard off to the side, both with our strength staff, all the running that he’s done, so he’s remaining in great shape. Now obviously there’s playing football shape as well. So, we’ll integrate him as we can and as he allows and with keeping the medical side fully involved in those types of decisions. But where that goes from here, I’m not sure, but I think it’s a good positive first step to take him off that list.”


Just wondering, you guys bringing in a new running back, what are you maybe hopeful to see out of him (Pierre Strong Jr.) when he comes in with some of the other guys you’ve been able to bring in and get a look at for maybe that RB3 position? 

“Yeah, that was an opportunity that came our way and feel good about adding Pierre, somebody that we’ve done a bunch of work on. We’ll see how quickly we can get him up to speed. This is what happens, as you know, around this time and really throughout the season. You start to add players and it’s our job to ramp them up as quickly as possible so they can understand our language, how we operate, so they can help us potentially down the line.”


The linebackers, Anthony (Walker) and Sione (Takitaki) obviously didn’t play, but are you expecting them to be ready to play week one?

“I am.”


With Denzel (Ward), what went into the decision to play him? I know he hadn’t played the previous two preseasons, so why yesterday? 

“Yeah, just really we make a decision based on every individual player, Scott, and what we think is best for them to get them ready to play a 17-game season. So felt like that was best in this case.”


When you reviewed that blocked kick, what did you see? 

“Obviously didn’t hit it like we wanted to and that’s something, like we talked about yesterday, I know we want to be able to finish there as a team, so it was disappointing. But it doesn’t change kind of our mentality that each one of our players is going to continue to work at this thing and get better.”


I know you keep saying that you don’t need to bring in another kicker, but don’t you think that you owe it to the other players on the team to have a competitor for Cade (York)? 

“Yeah, I think all roster decisions and those types of things are things that we talk about internally, Jeff (Schudel), really at every position. So that’s where I’d leave it.”


I was going to also ask about Cade York and just what do you think is actually possibly going on with him? Because we watch him perform so well in practice. Again, the last day of practice before the game, he was six for six in practice. Have you guys been able to identify what it is? And is that thing what makes you guys so confident he’s going to be able to work through it? 

“Yeah, I think a couple of things, Mary Kay (Cabot). I think Cade is very talented, and you’re right, we’ve seen it in practice. Definitely, I’ve seen it at times in games. He wants to come through for the team. I know he’s disappointed in that preseason, but (a) young player, going to continue to work. That’s really what it is.”


Have you guys begun the I know it’s going to be a difficult time between now and 4 p.m. Tuesday. Have you and Andrew (Berry) begun the process of trimming down the roster? And just what do you expect the timeline to be for those decisions to come down? 

“We have started that, Daryl. I think we’ll put out a release shortly. It is, as you guys know, we talk about it every year – it’s not a fun part of our gig to do this. You’d love to keep everybody, (but) the roster has to be cut down. So ultimately, you’re making tough decisions. You’re letting go of good football players, you’re letting go of some young players that I think there’s a lot of a bright future ahead for a bunch of guys. I’m excited for a bunch of guys, but it is also just the nature of the beast.”


I’m just wondering if any of the results of yesterday’s game, the injuries that you guys suffered, would impact what you guys do before Tuesday’s deadline, or does that not really weigh? Do you already have things decided before? 

“Yeah, I think for sure. Every game is an exposure to our players. There are guys that oftentimes play themselves onto or off a roster on these games, yesterday included. I mean, these are all big parts of it. And then with the injuries, again, not a fun part of our business, but it is part of our business. So, you’ve always got to be ready to have that backup ready or have your eyes on a potential replacement if you are forced due to injury.”


Did you get a chance to talk to Jakeem (Grant Sr.)? How’s he doing? 

“Yeah, I have. You know, I don’t want to speak for him. As you can imagine, just disappointed. Rehabbing through injuries is no fun, and it’s a lot of hard work and it’s a lot of time spent in the training room, in the weight room. There’s not a lot of glory in that. And then to come back and get injured the way he did, he’s disappointed. But again, I’ll reiterate because I see it and his teammates see it. The kid is unbelievably strong. I mean, incredibly mentally strong. So, we know he’ll bounce back. He’s going to have our full support to do so.”


Did Cade have any lingering effects, or does he still have any lingering effects from when he got up? 

“No. Yeah, no lingering effects.”

And do you expect him to be the kicker week one? 

“Yeah, I think all those types of things, Scott (Petrak), as you know, we always keep those internal as we get through this week. But I’ll reiterate I think Cade is very, very talented.”


Just wondering, he got a little bit testy after the game. Does that say anything? Does that speak to his mindset at all, or is that just a normal reaction to someone who’s getting asked questions about missing kicks? 

“Yeah, I think, (it’s) certainly normal to be frustrated by your performance when you don’t come through like he wants to. He works very hard, like we mentioned, wants to come through. So of course he’s going to be frustrated. I’ve been in that situation when you have to answer some questions when you’re frustrated, so we have to be pros in that situation. But these are human beings, so we do sometimes let frustrations get the better of us.”


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