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Transcript: Fassel, Williams, Gurley Talk Finishing 2016 Strong

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There are no postseason implications for the Rams in Week 17. But they still want to finish the season on a high note.

NFL: St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

John Fassel – Post Practice – December 30, 2016

(Opening remarks)

“I guess the only thing on my mind now is I’m going to miss football practice. It’s great to always be able to come out here on the grass, huddle the guys up, and pick some dirt and grass up, and said this is pretty sacred stuff – this green grass and dirt that’s between the lines. Just never take it for granted. Practice is fun, man, and it’s a long time before we get to do it again. I’m going to miss it.”

(On if this season has gone by fast for him)

“Right now looking back, it seems like it’s gone by fast. But, you know when you’re in it, and it’s Week 4, and Week 8, and Week 12, it kind of goes about how you think. I wish we had more, I wish we had more. It’s too bad.”

(On if he’s ever had a season similar to this year in all of his years around the game of football)

“No. You hit me with that – if I had to look back, I don’t think. Especially if you count relocation, and then all the different places we’ve been, and then obviously what’s happened in the past three weeks. I think this has to be up there with one of the most unique seasons I’ve definitely been a part of, and it just kind of shows you that the only thing that’s constant is change. That’s pro football and we adapt, and that’s just the way it is.”

(On what it would mean to him for RB Todd Gurley to have the best game of his season in the finale)

“It would be great. I’d imagine from Todd’s perspective, it would almost be like a big sigh of relief. But, finally – we talked about the stone cutter. That would be the epitome of the stone cutter, where for 15 weeks or 16 weeks, you just keep chipping away. Then, Week 17 would be that 101st blow for him where, finally, I got it. I think he needs 155 or something like that, to get his 1,000 yards, which would special for a season where maybe he didn’t get everything he wanted. But, to still say I got 1,000 yards, that would be a pretty spectacular feat. That would be one of the cool things to see guys achieve – a goal that, obviously, has been a real struggle to get.”

(On if as a coach, will he make sure those players reach certain milestones going into the last game of the season)

“Yeah, that would figure into feeding him the ball a little bit more, or (P) Johnny (Hekker) trying to get in another punt, or for any position. If you need another sack, or – (LB Alec Ogletree) ‘Tree’ needs, I think, five more tackles to get his career best, or something like that. That would be a factor. Week 17 at this point in the season, you try to get guys to achieve their goals, whether if you have to manufacture a play-call, or something like that.”

(On what strikes him the most about Gurley’s personality and how he handles adversity)

“I think he’s been – it’s been tough for him, for sure – but kind of like (QB) Jared (Goff). They’re young guys that have had a lot of accolades coming into the NFL. Then Todd, obviously, last year had accolades with the Pro Bowl and all of that. But I think, in a real twisted way, it’s really good for a coach or a player that’s been successful to have to go through a tough time, and kind of see really what they’re made of and see how they respond to either the critique, or lack of production from what they’re used to. I think if we just look at it that way – like how do we respond to the tough time and can we bounce back. I think he’s handled it really well, and I think it’ll be good for him going forward to go into the offseason with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder and a little extra hunger, rather than coming off a lot of accolades.”

(On what his message will be to the team before the last game on Sunday)

“I’m actually kind of still thinking about it. I can’t say that I know right now exactly what I want to say for Saturday night. It won’t be long. It won’t be much. But, I want to make sure my last message is short and sweet, with a little extra emphasis on sweet. I’m still kind of building up in my head of what I want to say, it’s my last shot, so, I got to make it great.”

(On if his father will be on the sideline)

“Yes, yeah he’ll be there. He’ll be there just like he was the past two games. That’s been a really cool part of these last three weeks – have him be a little bit more involved with just what I’m doing, which has been cool.”

(On what it will mean to him to get a win as an interim head coach)

“I don’t know, other than after the season, one day look back and say when the Rams relocated, I was given a unique opportunity to lead the team for three games. I think it would be cool to say, as a head coach, I won a game. So, I don’t know what it would mean. I don’t know. I think it’s been very meaningful to be in this position to be a leader with the situation that we’re in. I think that’s super meaningful. What does a win mean? Maybe ask me after that game. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you.”

Gregg Williams – Post-Practice – December 30, 2016

(On if he has ever been through a season like this)

“It’s pretty tough, there’s a lot of different things. As a professional, inside the white lines, you have to get ready to go. I think one of the more comforting things for these guys, and I’m very proud of a lot of the things that they’ve been through this year, is that there’s more peace and more calmness when they’re in the meetings and when they’re inside the white lines doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Those are excuses, we’re pros, we’re supposed to be able to do what we’re supposed to do. A good, young team defensively, I’m really proud of how far they came. We had a lot of moving parts at the start of the season, guys having to step up and move in to some new roles for us. They’ve done very good. I think (LB) Alec (Ogletree) has done an outstanding job this year defensively. We’ve got another one to play, play it our way, and do a better job finishing at the end.”

(On if anybody surprised him this season)

“There’s really, in all honesty, not a lot of surprises when you go through them. I think back in the old days when all we had was two, three day mini-camps when I started back in the ‘80’s in the league, and early ‘90’s – you didn’t have offseason training, you didn’t even have weightlifting and that kind of stuff because you didn’t have the facilities back then. When I’ve got them for nine straight weeks, they need a break from me and I need a break from them, there’s no surprises (laughter). I treat them all like my own sons, anyway – I’m just very hard on my own sons. They responded very well. I’m very proud of and again, I’ve told you guys this before, of guys that maybe other teams gave up on, they come here and we’re able to get things out of them. Undrafted free agents, all of the sudden they play very well for us – why is that? I’m okay with changing the style or the scheme of play to fit their strengths, hide their weaknesses. As long as they’re tough, as long as they’re smart, we’ll find a place for them. A lot of those guys have stepped up this year – especially in the secondary. I’ve been really proud of the secondary coaches, both (defensive backs coaches) Brandon (Fisher) and Dennard (Wilson) have done a very good job of taking some inexperienced guys and doing pretty well in our league, because the league has turned into a passing league. They’ve done very well.”

(On if he would be open to staying with the Rams following this season)

“It’d be one of those things. I love coaching. I don’t have hobbies. I’m happiest at practice, I’m happiest in games. The coaches and players get fed up with me in the meetings, so we like to get out here. But, yeah, sure. I’m going to coach for as long as I can. People say, ‘When will you know it’s time to stop doing this?’ It’s when they stop paying attention to me – it can’t be that simple. Can you step in the room, that’s when you know you belong in this league, especially from a coaching standpoint, is when they tone you out or they don’t listen to you, then maybe you better take a look at something else. I don’t have any problems of getting people to listen to me, I don’t have any problems with that. This is a good group, it’s a good profession. We’ll see, it’ll be an interesting offseason, but I’ve been through a bunch of those kinds before.

(On what he has thought of his time with the organization)

“It’s been tough in some ways. But the thing that I promised when I came back to help Jeff (Fisher) was that I’m not going to complain about anything to do with the people that coach – I’ll coach them. Now, get out of the way and don’t get upset with the way I coach them because it’s not always, maybe, a human resource kind of coaching because I’m going to make sure that they understand exactly what I’m saying. And they’ve done that, Jeff did that, so I enjoyed that part of it.”

(On how going against Cardinals QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald alter the game plan)

“I never had a chance to be on the same team with them, but I have admired them from afar for a long time. They’re very, very, very tough, veteran players, both of those guys. There’s not a lot of things that you can do to trick them anymore, it just comes down to a battle of wills, a battle of discipline. They’re both outstanding players. The fact that we’re playing in the same division – they know us, we know them. They’re two of the very top guys in our league.”

(On the final minutes of last week’s game)

“You don’t take a look at there’s no explosive plays and that’s outstanding in that respect. Our guys have done a very good job on not letting the ball get over the top of them. But then you have to be able to make the key little tight plays at the end and a couple times they haven’t done that. We did a great job last week of minimizing the scrambles until the very end and that wasn’t a part of our game plan. Our game plan was dominate in the rushing attack and then making sure that he (49ers QB Colin Kaepernick) couldn’t scramble. I’ll be doggoned, the last two drives, he didn’t put the ball in his own hand and we didn’t play very well on those couple of plays – we make those couple of scramble plays, then it’s a different world, a different game. The guys have done a good job all year long. People focus on that game there or one other game like that, but there’s been about four or five of them where we’ve done very well in the two-minute where we’ve made the play, we’ve knocked the ball out, we’ve created the fumble or the interception at the Jets like Ogletree did. Our guys have a short memory, hopefully, and they’ll be able to come back this week and play hard. But we want to be in those situations, you want to be in those situations where you’re leading at the end and have to make those plays, we just didn’t.”

(On what some of the younger players learn from the adversity this year)

“I would hope that they’d understand the resiliency and the toughness and the discipline part of it. There’s two words that I preach constantly to the guys on the defensive side of the ball that they have to own these two words that begin with the letter ‘A’ – and that’s accountability and availability. From an accountability standpoint, they all of the sudden see that they’re no longer on full-ride, they’re no longer on scholarship. This is a production business, there’s so many people waiting to sit in their chairs or waiting to sit in my chair. People want to be in the National Football League, so they have seen and gotten an opportunity to show whether they belong or not. So it’s been a good audition for some of these guys and it’s a good resume-builder for some of these guys. I’m proud of several of these guys that nobody else liked, but we gave them a chance and they stood out.”

(On taking a lot of snaps on defense)

“It’s just part of it. I look back at my early years when I was with the run-and-shoot (offense) – they scored a ton of points, but how fast the game was going and we had to play a lot of snaps back in those days, too. In this situation, it does pile on you, it does from a fatigue standpoint. We do a good job here, (Director of Sports Medicine and Performance) Reggie (Scott) and everybody does a good job with recovery here. That hasn’t been a problem, I don’t think, with any of our guys. And it also shows you, when you have a young team, they can last a little bit longer. If it was an older team in some of the positions, it would be tough, it would be very physically demanding on them. But, we don’t complain, we enjoy playing every single snap we get out there. You’ll see how we take the field, you can read their body language, they’re ready to go. And I’m anxious to watch them play this week, I’m anxious to watch them finish, because they’ve had a very good week of preparation.”

Todd Gurley – Post Practice – December 30, 2016

(On this week’s practice and preparing for Arizona)

“I felt like it was a great week. It wasn’t a short week, but we came out here with some energy. Last game of the season, so we’re going to try and get a win.”

(On whether the season has gone by quickly)

“Yeah. It always goes by quick. It feels like you just started a month ago, instead, it’s the end of the season.”

(On what stands out to him about this year)

“I haven’t really got there yet – can’t really tell you.”

(On whether there was anything he thought he could have done differently to provide more production in the running game and how he can improve for next year)

“Obviously, looking at every game you make mistakes in the game – that’s just part of it. Just looking back and correcting the mistakes that I had in the games. But other than that, not really. I felt like I’ve prepared myself every week and tried to play as hard as possible.”

(On the Georgia win over TCU in the Liberty Bowl and whether he’ll be talking smack to teammate RB Aaron Green)

“Oh, we won? Okay, cool. That’s all I need to know. I knew we were losing when we came out here. He’ll probably be gone by the time I get back in there, but it’s about to be on now (laughter).”

(On what it would mean to finish the season finale with a big game personally)

“Most definitely. I’ve been waiting for that one game every game. But like I said, you just have to trust in the process. Even if something’s not going your way, you still have to work hard at it and just hope that it happens the next week. My mindset is still the same, just to go out there this weekend and try to give it my all. If we could make something happen this weekend, it would definitely be a good feeling.”

(On whether it’s been easy or difficult to remain patient)

“It’s been fine. I found myself a couple of times, the last couple of games getting a little frustrated. But if you’re not getting frustrated then I don’t think you have the passion for the game. Just me not being content with myself and just knowing that I feel like I can do better as a player. As a team, I know we can do better.”

(On whether he’s gotten any advice from other running backs in the league on how to handle struggles in the running game)

“You get some pretty good advice. It’s kind of all the same, you know, just control what you can control, just stay patient. Everybody’s not going to have eight good years in a row, unless you’re – I don’t know I can’t name anybody – (Patriots QB) Tom Brady (laughter). But every year is not going to be the year. I can’t judge myself off what I did last year because that was last year and this is a new year – a whole different team. You just have to be patient and just work hard. Like I said, just control what you can control and hope that you can just progress every game.”

(On whether that’s something he learned this year – not to judge himself on what he accomplished last year and whether he ever found himself chasing)

“Yeah, as a player you find yourself doing that. It’s just growing up from high school to college. You’re like ‘Oh, I had 800 yards my freshman year, I should have 1,200 yards.’ So, you can never get stuck in the past and just worry about the future – what happened last year, happened last year or what happened last game, happened last game and you just kind of go from there.”

(On whether he’s looking forward to being in a new scheme or a new situation given the big changes to come during the offseason)

“I really haven’t even thought about. Honestly, just trying to finish these last couple games off and make sure I end this last ‘Week 17’ on a good note. Get a win and just try to do as good as possible.”