QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson (11.16.23)
What do you make of the opportunity that you have now to quarterback this team?
“Yeah, man, it’s a special one. I’d say it came at the right time. Obviously, our hopes and prayers are with Deshaun (Watson), but this team needs to win and they need to win right now. And that’s what I’m trying to work to come in here and do.”
Why do you think this time can be different than the one other start you had?
“I mean, shoot, I know what to expect now. Unlike many other people out there, I’ve been in an NFL game, so I’m not stepping out there for the first time. I know all my keys, all what to look at throughout film, what to watch, who key players are on their defense and everything now. So, I’m not just going out there wide-eyed anymore. I’m going out there with things to look at, things to focus on and a plan to be able to tackle.”
I think after that first game you talked about dealing with the emotions, but do you think you’ll be better suited to handle those this time?
“Of course, like I said, you kind of knocked all the rust and the stuff off after your first go around. I think I said this a couple of weeks ago, it’s going to be night and day. It’s going to be night and day. Just my progression, the maturity, how I’ve handled the week this far and all the weeks before. Just being able to learn from that first experience.”
Is practice night and day as well when you are the starter, and you have all those reps for the entire week?
“Yeah, reps are everything. So when you can get as many reps as you can, it’s going to help you on Sunday. But just the comfortability level, being in the huddle with the guys, talking to the guys outside of the plays, being able to ask questions, get feedback from them on the coverages, certain routes, how they want things thrown, how they want to run things. We’re finally getting on the same page now instead of me just going out there and kind of winging it.”
When you talk about feedback and getting on the same page, what have your conversations with Kevin (Stefanski) and AVP (Alex Van Pelt) been like this week as far as trying to sculpt and shape this game plan to maybe fit you more so than additional?
“Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is just using the guys around me, using the other ten players that I have on the field with me, making sure that I’m not the focal point, trying to get the ball out of my hands as quick as possible and spread the ball around to our playmakers and let them make plays. So, when you look at it from that lens, you don’t have a lot to think about. Just go out there, go through your progressions, go through your run checks and get the ball in anybody else’s hands but yours.”
With story can you talk about having to go up against TJ Watt, Alexis Highsmith and Cam Heyward here in your second start?
“Yeah, I got to watch them up close and personal on that Monday night game. Two really good players in my humble opinion. I said that those are the two best players on their team and so two people obviously have to be aware of and guys that are going to be affecting most of the plays and most of the game. So, like I said, just great ball security, making sure we know where those guys are at in protection. And then like I said, just getting the ball out of my hands so that’s not my problem.”
When did you find out?
“Found out on my birthday. Found out on my birthday, Tuesday.”
So you would hope that the coaches, it’s their game plan day so they had to make a decision?
“I assume so.”
The last time fans saw you in the Baltimore game, obviously didn’t go well. Explain to the fans who are going to see you this weekend why this is going to be different in terms of your performance.
“I mean, if you look at the circumstances, what we got to go up against and all the things that come with this game, you have to win. It’s a must-win game, not only just for this week before our future, what we’re trying to get to and the goals we’re trying to get to. So, it’s a big game at the end of the day if I go out there and follow my rules, I’ll be alright.”
What’s it like stepping into this situation where you said, not only is it a big game Sunday but you guys are 6-3 trying to get to the playoffs and here you are, a rookie being thrust into this in the middle of the season. What’s that pressure like for you?
“I’d say there is none. If I would have had this game that first week in week four, I’d probably have a bunch of jitters and nervousness and probably wouldn’t be able to get out any answers to you guys. But like I said, I’ve gotten that first one under my belt. I know what it takes now to be an NFL quarterback and not just be a college quarterback being in the NFL. So, I think I’ve taken that next step. You know, I’m just trying to grow every day. Like I said, lean on my teammates. We have a wonderful team here with guys that love me and are embracing me this week. So, if I can just go out there and lean on my teammates, I think I’ll be alright.”
Coach said he did game ball for scout, being Lamar Jackson last week. Going against this defense, what, that’s got to help you. Going against the top defense in the NFL in that role.
“Yeah. You know, I try to give our defense hell every day and make sure that I give Coach (Jim) Swartz and those guys the best look, whichever quarterback I have to represent for that week. But like I said, my job and my role is totally different this week. It’s nothing like scout team. Those guys can’t hit me on scout team. They can hit me this Sunday. So, I got to be prepared to get the ball in my hands, make sure I’m clean with my feet and clean with my progression.”
What gives you the confidence that you’re going to be the guy to lead this team at the playoffs because that’s the goal?
“I’ve been in these shoes before where I’ve been thrown out there in the fire and made it out of it successful. So, I know I can do this. I know what it takes to do this. I’ve been through the fire already this year and I’ve only grown from it and so I expect to do the same thing this year.”
Between week four and now, we don’t see everything behind the scenes, but were there moments where you felt your confidence was shaken and if so, how did you endure it?
“Yeah, of course. When you get an opportunity to play, you don’t play up to your standards and then obviously you don’t get the job the next week. It’s frustrating. All those emotions tend to come up just naturally. But luckily, like I said, I still have a job. I’m still able to come into this building like I have wonderful teammates and staff that support me and embrace me. And even when I was confident, they’re telling me to be even more confident. So those guys always push me to be my best every day. So, it’s hard not to move past stuff and move on quickly.”
What inspiration do you draw from Brock Purdy and what he’s been able to do?
“Yeah, I mean, really, Brock and then all the rookies this year with CJ (Stroud) and Will (Levis) and all those guys have done a phenomenal job. I think the biggest thing, like I said earlier, is just they’re playing clean football, not giving the ball away. And by doing that, they’re having clean feet, clean progressions, getting the ball out their hands into their playmaker’s hands and they’re doing the job for them, making them look good. So, I’m trying to do the same.”
A lot of guys in the locker room the last day or so have said our goals are not changing just because of this injury. Do you feel that way as the quarterback now?
“I’m glad they said that because it shouldn’t. We shouldn’t have a change in mindset, a change in goals. Our goals are still going to be the same whether it’s me, P.J. (Walker) or Deshaun (Watson). So, all I can say is I’m glad they didn’t say anything else.”
Have things changed for you dramatically since that last start in terms of how hard you study. Anything else you maybe emphasize since then?
“I think you only know what you know when you go out there. Like I said as a rookie and it’s your first time for a start. So now I know, like I said, what to expect. So now I’m coming in the morning with questions. My Tuesdays are way better from my Wednesdays. My Wednesdays are way better from my Thursdays. Like, I’m coming in here firing out the play calls, the sentence-long play calls before coach even sets the motion. So, I think, like I said, night and day, if Coach (Kevin Stefanski) would ask me, what are we running out of this formation, I would have been like, I don’t. It’s like I said, it’s night and day, man. I’m so proud of myself. But more so importantly, I’m just thankful to be in this position with this team and have this opportunity.”
What’s been the teaching point from AVP (Alex Van Pelt and Kevin (Stefanski) on not turning the ball? Run if you have to or just throw it away if you have to?
“I mean, the biggest thing they said is we’re going to coach you hard on your feet. We’re going to coach you hard on your progressions, going to coach you hard on your run checks. If you just follow your rules, you’ll be all right. We’ll win this game. If you tell somebody not to think of an elephant, you go think of an elephant, right? So, I’m not going to go out there, think about throwing picks and think about not throwing picks or fumbles or anything like that. I’m going to think about going out there playing my game, watch a couple games of mine from UCLA, get that swagger back and let’s go out there and play some football.”
You mentioned the support you felt from teammates. Have you felt it even more this week?
“Yeah, obviously I’m in a different role and guys need me a little bit more this week than they have in the past. So, I think, yeah, I’ve heard a few more chirps in my ear.”
You have that gun slinger mentality about you and you really are an aggressive, explosive passer. How do you balance that against not throwing picks?
“Yeah, just making really great decisions. I think I don’t even have to worry about the outcome of the game. If I can just go in there and make a great decision on each and every play, it’ll work itself out and I won’t really have to worry about much and we’ll be all smiling at the end of the day.”
Dorian, a bunch of rookies have played this year across the league in different circumstances. Have you talked with your peers about your circumstance, they’re getting better going through this?
“Yeah, I talked a little bit with Will (Levis). Obviously, he’s doing great over there at Tennessee. Talked with Clayton (Tune), who we just played at Arizona, those two guys I draft trained with, so I have a pretty good relationship with him. Yeah, just bouncing off ideas. I know Josh (Dobbs) and Deshaun (Watson) do the same. You know, what are you seeing? How are you feeling? Just kind of checking in more so than anything, making sure that we’re good mentally. But yeah, I definitely asked around.”
Do you have a favorite UCLA game you’ll watch?
“I mean, it’s SC week right now, so I’m a big SC fan guy to watch.”
I mean, of your personal library,
“2021, USC beat them 62 to 33.’
That’s a good one.
“And in that game, too. I started off the game pretty slow. We got back into a rhythm pretty quick.”
How surprised were you when you found out Tuesday? Just given did you know Deshaun (Watson) possibly could be done for the year?
“I mean, that was my first time ever having to deal with injury at my position. I’ve always kind of been the guy, so I didn’t know how that was going to work. I know when I get hurt, I try to take as many reps as I can throughout the week just so I can be able to play. If I can’t play, then the backup has to deal with it at that point. So, I understand those type of situations. I, in that situation was just kind of falling along for the week, prepping, as I always do, as a starter, and it ended up happening that way.”
I mean, this week when you found out Tuesday, did you know Monday or Sunday there’s a chance, Deshaun (Watson), that the injury could be that serious?
“No, not really. I honestly didn’t even know he had hurt his shoulder. I thought it was all his ankle and texting with him, and we’re all happy, obviously, after the game, so it wasn’t really talking about anything injuries wise, but, yeah, I knew he had a hurt ankle. I didn’t know anything about the shoulder until Tuesday.”
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