Head Coach Kevin Stefanski (1.9.24)

Opening statement:

“Okay. Excited about the opportunity we have in front of us. Going down there to play a very, very good Houston team. We have to have a great week of preparation. What we’ve talked about as a team, just this is the time where you really have to have a great week of preparation. Whether it’s a meeting or a walkthrough or a lift or practice, whatever it is. So the guys understand that at and that’s what we’ll get ready to do today. And starting this week, we’re also excited that we’re the first game. We don’t have to wait an extra day, so we get to get up and go. But looking at this game, I know we recently played this team. As you know, they’re different. Everybody’s different each week. But C.J. Stroud’s a great player. I mean, he’s a great player, so we did not face him in the first one. There’s injuries, the guys that are back on defense that they didn’t have. They’ve signed a couple free agents on defense. So really, as everybody knows, you’re a different team week to week and certainly this is a different team we’re facing. But I know it’s a very talented team. They’re very well coached. I have a ton of respect for DeMeco (Ryans), his entire coaching staff, so it’s a great challenge, but we’re really focused on the work that’s going to go into it this week. But with that, I’ll take any questions.”


Kevin, do you expect Dustin (Hopkins) to kick for you guys this week? 

I think it’s unlikely.”


Kevin, what stands out, you mentioned CJ. When you watch him on tape, what stands out?

“He’s awesome. I remember watching him early, Tom, because we had some crossover tape and getting ready to play Baltimore. I know he played in – that was his first game, and I think even in that game, you saw some plays and some throws where you knew right away that kid was really, really talented. I know the state has seen him play quite a bit, so he’s a very talented young man and I think the tape is what we as coaches always kind of go back to. And he’s got some really great tape.”


Kevin, couldn’t have anticipated it, but would you in the future instruct your kickers not to do what Dustin did? 

“Yeah, I think it’s always that fine line, Jeff (Schudel), where you want to make a play for the team, you want to hustle, but you also don’t want to put yourself in harm’s way. So those are things we talk about, but you can’t deny that our guys have great effort out there.”


Grant (Delpit) could be activated this week. Is he not ready? 

“Yes, still could be.”


You talked about the changes you’re going to see with Houston. What difference could it make having a guy like Will Anderson?

“Exactly, it’s like everybody, you want all your players to be healthy at this point in the season. Everybody’s dealing with it in varying degrees. But those are some really, really good edge rushers they have.”


How do you feel about your receiving core, the health of your receiving core heading into this game? 

“Yeah, feel good. Obviously Ced’s (Cedric Tillman) still in the concussion protocol, but I think all those other guys are doing well.”


Some of the players spoke at a team meeting that had Super Bowl, playoff experience. Why did you think that was an important exercise for them? 

“They weren’t supposed to tell you that. No, I think for all of us, as you get started on the second season, I think it’s important to hear from different perspectives. That’s all it was.”


Was it just playoff experience or was it guys with Super Bowl experience? 



Nico Collins and just seeing the way that he and C.J.have developed chemistry in the pass game with Tank Dell still out for them, how much of challenges he especially just given his size?

“Yeah, I mean, that’s it. Ashley (Bastock). He’s just a really physical football player, can make contested catches, has the speed, has breakaway speed. He’s a big play receiver as you saw in the first play of the game the other night. He’s really talented.”


You spoke of perspective. Your rookie season as a head coach, you took this team to the playoffs. DeMeco is a rookie coach. What is it as a first year coach that you just don’t know until, you know, when you go into a playoff game? 

“You know, I think for all of our players, coaches, you have a lot of rookies on the team, guys that haven’t been in that type of situation. It’s exciting to be a part of it, but it also goes back to doing all the little things that got you there and really focusing on fundamentals. Those are the type of things that you talk about with our young players.”


I was more speaking from your perspective as a coach. What didn’t you know going in that you learned in that experience? 

“Yeah, I think for all of us as coaches, Chris (Easterling), I would tell you every experience you’re trying to gain something from. So you learn from wins, you learn from losses. So every experience, games on the road, games in prime time, those type of things, I think all of them you learn from.”


Is the feeling with that, you know, maybe he’s getting close and he can get back for some of the later games. Don’t want to waste him in this game and make it worse? 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t characterize it that way, Mary Kay (Cabot). I’d just say he’s progressing, but I don’t think he’ll be ready for this week.”


Kevin, you said a couple of weeks ago that Myles’ (Garrett) leadership, you’ve seen a huge jump in that his teammates would say that too, which they do. When you say you’ve made a huge jump in leadership, what does that mean exactly? What does that look like? 

“I think, you know, it can look like a bunch of different things. I think biggest thing for me with all of our guys, Jake (Trotter), is like, you want them to be the best version of themselves. You don’t want them to be something different. So when it comes to leadership, if you’re a vocal person, be vocal. If you’re not, don’t. And if you need to lead by example, you lead by example. So I think just with Myles, he’s very comfortable in his own skin. I think he can lead by example, and he does lead by example, both in the building and on game day. He can also be vocal. I mean, he’s not afraid to speak up to his teammates and push them, sometimes pick them up off the ground, those type of things. I think he’s grown in a bunch of different ways, but it’s sometimes hard to really put a finger on it.”


When your best player is doing those things. What does that do for your entire team? 

“Yeah, I think we’re very fortunate to have a bunch of really good leadership on this team. When it comes from Myles and the caliber of player that he is, I think that’s just a greater driver, certainly, of some of your messaging.”


Amari (Cooper) has the kind of game he did the first time he went down to Houston. Do you expect them to do something drastically different? 

“Yeah, I mean, you talk through those type of things and same idea from our perspective, that chess match of things that we tried, are you going to try it again? Are you going to try it a different way? Are they going to adjust? It’s all those things that you go into a game you have conversations about, but you really don’t know until you get into the game. And sometimes you won’t know until the third series. So there’s always that chess match that takes place between the staff and their staff and see what their answers are. And you better have counterpunches ready.”


What can Joe’s (Flacco) experience in the league just really help, one the offense of the whole, but especially the younger guys, if they’re going through this experience for the first time? 

“Yeah, I think all of our veteran players that have been in these type of games and veteran coaches that have been these type of games, I think you can certainly message to the young guys. The rookies are really the ones that have not experienced these type of games and younger players. So you want to just message to them again, going back what were talking earlier, that what wins doesn’t change. It ultimately does come down to doing your job and doing all those little things.”


I just want to clarify something with Riley (Patterson) since Dustin’s going to be unlikely to kick. Does it reset for the postseason, the elevation? 

“It does.”


So, back to zero?



Hard to win in September, never mind in January. Joe’s playoff record, especially on the road. I know you’re confident in any time, but does that give you an added boost of confidence? 

“Yeah. Again, I think when you’re talking about Joe’s career, he’s obviously done this at a high level in the biggest game. So I think the confidence comes from demonstrated ability. And with Joe, he’s done it in these big games. But more than that, I think his teammates see how he works on a daily basis. I think they see him out there on the practice field, in the meeting rooms, and they trust in his preparation.”


Jeff Driskel, be your number two for this game? 

“We’re working through all that.”


Do you sense the excitement from the city going into these playoffs? You were there before, but it was kind of a different situation. People were not out and about, but now do you feel it? 

:I’m probably a bad barometer for it, Jake. I’m sure knowing the city, I know how important this team is to them, and we understand that we’ve seen it however many times down in the lake this season. So looking forward to seeing some of those Brownies fans down there on Saturday.”


As good as the defense played all year, there were some bumps on the road. Then you went down to Houston, played great. Do you think you guys gain confidence from being able to travel and feel like yourselves down there? 

“Yeah, but. Yes, Scott (Petrak), but as you know, these are one game seasons and you got to answer the bell every single week. I mean, that’s the fun part, again, of the playoffs. It truly is one game seasons.”


I’ve wondered this for a long time. 

“Why haven’t you asked, Jeff?”


What is your typical daily schedule here? Are you one of those five in the morning to one in the morning, guys?

“I’ve always thought, Jeff, that when I get in the building or when I leave the building, there’s a lot of people out there that work a lot harder than I do. So I get in the building and have my cup of coffee. I’m not grinding like some of the people around our country, so I’ll leave it a mystery.”


But my point was going to be that I don’t know how coaches do it and still can think clearly at the end of a season when some put in those really crazy outcomes. 

“Yeah, it’s football. We got a great job. It’s fun. We had a meeting this morning with the offensive staff. It was a little loopy because everybody was tired, but the guys were into it and excited about the opportunity. But it is part of our gig. You’re up early, you’re staying up late.”


Kevin, the practice squad has kind of morphed into something different in the last few years. How advantageous is that as a mechanism to kind of stash guys away or…?

“Absolutely. Yeah, it’s a good point because back in the day, I want to say it was eight and now it’s 16, and we still fret over not having enough spots somehow. But yeah, to be able to have guys on your practice squad that you are getting ready to play just in case, I think it’s really important as you know, once you get into the postseason, you have a limited number of free agent signings. So to have guys that know your system that you trust that you could elevate in a situation where you need them, I think is important.”


Does that make signing veterans more of a priority or do you have to strike some sort of balance there? 

“It’s a good question. I don’t know ultimately what Andrew’s (Berry) philosophy is when it comes to that specifically. But if you look at our practice squad right now, it’s a good mix of young and old, and I think it does make sense to have some guys that you just never know. You want to have guys that have certainly have some experience.”


Are you guys going to be indoors this week?

” We will. We’ll be indoors. Definitely today.”


Do you like playing against the team in the playoffs that you have some working knowledge in because you played them already or because it’s so week to week, do you feel it tears down? 

“It goes both ways. It really does. It’s unique having played them just a couple of weeks ago. Go back to 2020, any playing Pittsburgh back to back weeks. I mean, those are unique because there’s not much new tape coming in. There’s a couple of games that you can watch and see maybe what adjustments and things that they’re doing differently from that first matchup, but it is certainly unique, but I don’t think it gives either side an advantage.”


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