Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (1.1.24)

Kevin, now that you guys are locked into the five seed, how does that affect what players you’re going to use on Sunday? Are you going to rest some guys for the playoffs? 

“We’re working through all those things, Jake (Trotter). We’ll have a plan, obviously. Like I mentioned to you guys before, we want to finish strong, so we’ll have a plan moving forward, but I’ll update you guys as we get going through the week.”


Kevin, I don’t think we’ve had a chance to ask you about Jeff Driskel yet. Is he somebody that if you decide to rest Joe (Flacco), does he have an option of starting this game for you? 

“Yeah, working through all those things, Mary Kay (Cabot). You know, a guy that we felt good about bringing in, AVP (Alex Van Pelt) has been with him before when he was in Arizona. So, there’s a lot of carryover from what we do and what they do in terms of terminology. So, with Dorian’s (Thompson-Robinson) injury, getting a guy in here that we felt good about, but we’ll see on all that.”


Kevin, could you tell us who was involved in the decisions on who to play and who not to play? Is it strictly the coaches or does it go beyond that? 

“This decision coming up, you’re saying?”



“Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s my decision, but you know of course I consult with Andrew (Berry) and Paul (DePodesta) and the coaches on this type of thing. You know, you always want to get everybody’s opinion on it, but it’s my decision.”


And this is kind of the spoils of a good year. Do you consider this a difficult decision or not? 

“I think every decision you make, Tony (Grossi), you’re just trying to make what is in the best interest of your football team, whether you play your guys, rest your guys, and as you know, you can’t rest everybody. There are roster limitations to that. You know, we took care of business last week, but we have to finish strong. That’s our mentality, that’s what we’re trying to do.”


Hey, Kevin, how do you handle the preparation for that first round, given that, you know, the three teams it could be and you’ve faced all of them?

“I mean, I think we faced all of them. They faced us. So, it’ll be the second time versus all those opponents. So, as you know, we’re going to go back and watch those games. They’re going to go back and watch the game we played them. So, it’s similar to a division game in that regard when you play that team for the second time around. But I don’t know that there’s an advantage to either side.”


And when you’re deciding who to play and not play this weekend, how much does the fact that you guys have had so many injuries this season impact that? 

“Yeah, I mean, you’re trying to obviously balance all those things, Scott (Petrak), as you make decisions for your football team. Like I said, it’s important for us to finish strong, so that’s what we’re going to do, and then we’ll get as healthy as we can going into the next season.”


Hey, Kevin, I’ve got two for you. First, kind of to piggyback off Scott’s question, do you commit part of this week to potentially preparing for that wild card round, or is it just like 100% focused on the Bengals? 

“Well, I don’t think you can commit to preparing for the schematics of the postseason, so we’re going to focus on the Bengals and focus on playing our best this week. Now, having said that, everything you do, every workout you do, everything you do in the building is preparing yourself for that postseason as well. ”


And then this is kind of a random one, but I know in the preseason sometimes you let other coaches, like, call plays or kind of take on different roles. Would you consider doing that in a week 18 game, or is it just kind of everything status quo? 

“Yeah, that’s really for the preseason only.”


Kevin, kind of similar to that question, in the preseason you see, a lot of guys get opportunities when guys are resting. Is this week 18 game one of those situations where some of these guys have opportunities that you guys can get some final looks at them, they get some reps in just in case. With that next man up mentality in mind?

“I mean, potentially Cam (Justice), but I would tell you a lot of guys have gotten a lot of good reps this season. I think it’s just about our rookie class and how we’ve asked a lot of those guys throughout this entire season. They’ve worked very hard throughout the season, whether it be games or practice. So, it’s a culmination of all those things.”


Thanks, Jordyn (White). Coach, Happy New Year. And to all my colleagues out there as well. When you’re factoring in all these decisions for this week, Kevin, in terms of Joe Flacco, he’s had a lot of reps in his career, not necessarily a bunch this season. How much does that play into it? And then will you consult with Joe on what he’s most comfortable with while keeping in mind you guys do want to finish strong?

“Yeah. I mean, you talk to Joe every day Tom (Withers), you know, but this decision, I’ll make for what’s best for every position, everybody on the team. But Joe’s certainly a veteran that does a great job in the meeting room, does a great job on game day of letting you know what he’s seeing. He sees it really well. But I think it’s really important that you listen to your guys, both in this building, when you’re working and you’re in meetings and when you’re out there in the practice field. I think it’s important to listen to them on game day as well. And Happy New Year, Tom.”


Happy New Year, Kevin. About the injured guys, not so much for this week, but can you project that first round of the playoffs, whether AWalk (Anthony Walker) and Ogbo (Okoronkwo) and maybe Dustin Hopkins might be ready? 

“Yeah, I don’t know, Jeff (Schudel). Obviously, we’ll see how all those guys progress over the course of the next couple of weeks. You want to get all those guys back, obviously, but we’ll just have to see how they do over the next seven to 14 days.”


Hey, Kevin, how important was it to get the run game going Thursday night after the couple of struggles the previous week? 

“I thought, you know, that was a big part of our success the other night, Scott (Petrak), was getting that going. I thought there were some runs that were really well-blocked. I also thought there were some really great individual efforts, particularly by Jerome (Ford) early and then Kareem (Hunt) late, Pierre (Strong Jr.) in between. So, I think it was important. I mean, we’re having some success going first and ten, gaining eleven. You know, getting into a second and shorter, gaining the first down. So, I thought the guys really – that helped us stay ahead of the chains a bunch of times in that ball game.”


And how much do you think was the five guys up front having had some time healthy and working together as that unit? 

“Yeah, I mean, that’s always very helpful. As you know, it takes everybody. It takes the tight ends, it takes the wide receivers to do their job. But I thought there were some good moments individually up front as well, of guys just blocking their guy, taking your guy, and eliminating him from that play.”


Kevin, if you don’t mind, specifically about your top two receivers, the fact that Amari (Cooper) actually tried to play in this past game, does that bode well for the Bengals game? If you choose to play, then, you know, everybody was pretty worried about Elijah (Moore). I know he got out of the hospital and everything, but is he making some decent progress? 

“Yeah, Amari’s feeling better. So, again, we’ll see how he does throughout this week, but he’s definitely feeling better. And then same with Elijah, you know, continues to make progress. So, we’ll see how that goes again over these days, but very, very excited about that.”


Well, the Dallas-Detroit game was interesting at the end, and there have been a lot of times where you have had two offensive linemen report as eligible receivers. So, I wonder what your take was on what was going on there. 

“Oh, man, that was interesting. You know, it’s tough. I feel for everybody in that situation. That’s tough. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on that one, Tony (Grossi).”


Did it look like they were trying to confuse Dallas and ended up confusing the officials? 

“Yeah, hard to say, as you know. And we report, we bring in linemen a bunch and you coach them up, and obviously, there are times when you’re trying to be deceptive, if you will. There are times where it’s pretty straightforward. That was a tough one to watch, though.”



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