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TRANSCRIPT: LA Rams HC Sean McVay, DC Wade Phillips, RB Todd Gurley on Week 11 prep

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Here’s what the Rams had to say after practice today.

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay

(Opening Remarks)

“From an injury standpoint, (LB) Mark Barron did not participate. It wasn’t injury-related though. We feel like he’ll be good to go. Neither did (C) John Sullivan, kind of same thing, that veteran rest day, again just being smart with John. (T Andrew) Whitworth was a limited participant. (OLB) Connor Barwin did not participate with his knee, he’s just continuing to rehab that from the game the other day. (RB) Malcolm Brown did not participate with his knee, (TE) Derek Carrier did not participate with his hamstring. (CB) Troy Hill was a limited participant with his hamstring. (S) Lamarcus (Joyner) did not participate with his hip. (OLB) Matt Longacre was a limited participant with his back and then (G) Rodger Saffold was a full participant and so was (OLB) Robert Quinn.”

(On the Vikings stadium being among the loudest stadium’s they’ll play in this year, if there’s any way they can simulate that, and what are the keys to playing in a loud stadium)

“I think it is hard to truly mimic and emulate a situation like what they have. This is one of the few stadiums I have not been to yet. When we played Minnesota when I was in Washington, they came to us. But, I’ve heard it’s a great atmosphere. John (Sullivan) talked about how loud it is and there’s always a premium when you go the road, being able to handle your cadence especially offensively – that communication. Trying to make sure you stay in manageable situations. You look at their defense and how good they are defensively, whether they’re at home or away, but you especially see those guys T-off on the snap count. They do a great job utilizing that home field advantage defensively with some of the things that they do, so that’s going to be a great challenge for us. We talk about the poise and concentration and making sure that we’re locked in and ready to go with both the verbal and the visual communication that a road atmosphere like that entails. I’d say probably the closest thing to it would be Dallas this year, but certainly this is definitely one of the best atmospheres in terms of the noise and their fans do a great job.”

(On what the thought process behind naming the audibles that QB Jared Goff calls during the games)

“I can’t tell you everything because that would certainly be an advantage. A lot of those words are from the players, from the coaching staff. There’s a lot of people that are involved that I think you try to have fun with some of those code words and the communication. I think Jared’s done an excellent job with that and some of them mean something some of them don’t. Guys have fun with it. You try to keep it relevant and make sure that whatever it is, there’s some at least association and you try to be intentional with those things. But, having seen that, ‘What other words did you hear?’ (laughs). Go ahead and see if you guys can decipher what all those mean. I still don’t even know (laughs).”

(On how LB Mark Barron has fit into what the team’s been doing on defense)

“I think Mark’s played great football. Very active, you feel him. He’s all over the field. I think he has great movement. You look at three picks this year, a bunch of tackles, he’s in on a lot of plays. He’s one of those guys that he just has a great feel for the game and I remember thinking that even when he was playing safety in Tampa, back when I was coaching tight ends in Washington, we played against them. But, very physical player, great instincts, great awareness, great recognition ability. I think he’s getting more and more comfortable. You look at, he missed a lot of time this offseason just recovering from some of the injuries and you want to be smart about how you manage Mark throughout the season, just so that he can be at his best on Sundays. But, he’s one of those guys that understands the game and I think you’re able to see him take advantage of the mental reps even if he’s not able to get some of that physical work during the week that in an ideal situation you would get. But, Mark’s made a huge impact, really loves football and really have just enjoyed being around Mark the more that I continue to get to know him.”

(On if Whitworth being a limited participant in today’s practice was due to rest)

“Absolutely, with Andrew he’s one of those guys that he’s been playing so long we trust as a coaching staff and really as a training staff, what his body’s telling him. He knows how to take care of himself and what that does, similar to kind of John’s approach during the week, is that that enables some of our younger linemen to get a lot of reps, where Andrew’s going to be fresh during the week. He’s smart about taking the reps that he feels like he needs to be at his best on Sunday.”

(On if he knew what he had in G Rodger Saffold now that he’s at the midpoint of a great season)

“It’s interesting, because when he was coming out of Indiana I remember we were studying him in Washington and thought very highly of him. Just kind of watching him from afar I know that he’s a very athletic player that had moved around and had the ability to play a variety of spots and then when you get an opportunity to interview for the job, you’re watching him last year. I’d almost say it was like finding where’s Waldo where he’s playing every single position last year, but playing very efficient. He’s got great movement, great strength at the point of attack, great athleticism to finish on the second level. I’ve been very pleased with Rodger and the way that he’s played. I think that he’s playing extremely productive. I don’t know enough about what he’s done over the course of his career to say that it’s his best year, but he’s playing really good football for us and I expect that to continue. I can’t say enough good things about really what he’s done this year. He’s been a very pleasant surprise.”

(On what challenges Vikings DE Everson Griffen presents compared to Texans OLB/DE Jadeveon Clowney)

“Yeah, very similar. He’s got great get off – plays with great effort every single play. He’s got a great variety of moves and different things, but I think you see all 11 on their defense and especially Everson, those guys play with great effort. You see the burst speed and finish every single snap. He’s in a good position, you see why the production has been what it has, really over the last couple of years. I remember being in Washington getting ready for him – he’s a nightmare to prepare for and he’s one of those guys that you always have to account for. But, they’ve got a handful of guys like that on their front that can affect and impact a game and that’s why they’re a top-tier defense. But just like anything else, you always have a variety of things that you want to do to make sure that you at least have a plan for some of those guys that can wreck a game-plan and Everson is certainly one of those guys.”

(On potential discipline for DE Ethan Westbrooks in regards to his pending legal situation)

“Yeah, we handled that in house, but as far as just the communication and him being upfront and honest with us about the way that he handled those things we feel comfortable with that. Certainly we will always have high standards in terms of the off-the-field behavior and I think the guys understand that and certainly Ethan does as well. But in terms of taking care of some of the things that we talked about in the organization, he’s following all of those steps right now, continuing to do the right things to manage the situation that did come up, but he’s been up front and honest with us the whole and we trust Ethan on his word and we’re continuing to stick with him through that.”

(On if he welcomes the opportunity to go against a guy like Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer)

“I think you have such a great amount of respect for Coach Zimmer. Just going against him and seeing the production that he’s had for so many years with a variety of different defenses, you have a great appreciation for the caliber of coach that he is, so it presents a great challenge for our team. I know that he’s got a lot of great players as well. That’s why they’re in the positon that they are, that’s why they’re so highly rated in all the major categories statistically on defense. So, it presents a great challenge really for our offense and for our team when you look at how complete if a team they are and I think that’s a credit to Coach Zimmer’s leadership and the way that he goes about his business. We’re excited about the game and anytime that you get to go against a great coach and a great team like this, it certainly does get you excited.”

(On if there is anything that makes third-down plays different in terms of the principles and philosophy)

“I think the biggest thing you talk about is that early-down efficiency, so that when you are in third downs you can be in the third-and-manageables. I think there’s a great example when you look back at the Houston game – we were 0-for early on in that game because we’re in a bunch of third-and-10-pluses. Then you look at it going on from when we hit (WR) Robert Woods on the quick out on a third-and-2, from that point on you’re pretty much in predominantly third-and-five or less. Just statically around the league and especially for us offensively, you’re much better when now you have some run-pass options open. I think those are the areas that you want to be in because you’re a little bit more regulated in terms of the looks that you see defensively as well. The key is the early down efficiency to try to avoid those third-and- longs when, really, defense now is kind of in that attack mode. They can kind of dictate and determine how they want to set that down, whether they want to play loaded zone, keep everything in front of them or if they want to pressure you and those are the situations, especially against a great defense like this that we have to stay out of if we expect to compete.”

(On if the Vikings defense has been winning because they put opposing offenses into third-and-long situations)

“They’ve been able to win in all situations, but I think you look at them. I want to say they’re second in the league in third down. You watch the tape, whether it’s kind of however you break up the third downs, they’ve been efficient in all areas. But when you are a very good defense like that, typically you force offenses in bad down-and-distances and you get people off-schedule on first and second down and then they kind of tee off on you and then they’re in total control.”

DC Wade Phillips

(Opening Remarks)

“Minnesota, I’m very familiar with (Vikings QB) Case Keenum. When I took over as interim (head coach) in Houston, I made him the quarterback, so he’s played for me before. He’s a University of Houston (guy). Obviously, I’m a University of Houston guy. He’s really playing great. I think (Vikings Offensive Coordinator) Pat Shurmur has done a great job with their offense, especially with him. He’s obviously matured since we had him in Houston and he’s playing really well. The quarterback’s playing well, the running back’s playing well. Their wide receivers are two top guys. Their tight end’s a really good player and their offensive line hasn’t given up a sack in four games. They can run the ball, throw the ball well, and I think Case is maturing into a really good quarterback. So, it’s a big challenge for us.”

(On if there’s anything that goes into forcing turnovers besides being in the right place at the right time)

“Well, it’s hard work at what you do. Hopefully, a little coaching has something to do with it. You work on certain things that help cause turnovers. Pressure certainly helps on interceptions and so forth and being in the right place, guys being able to cover well, or double cover, or knowing what to do. There’s a lot of cases that they think somebody’s open, but somebody else is helping and you get an interception. I think we have as many batted balls as anybody in the league, too. We practice those things. Now, do they always come true? But that’s something you work on next to points – obviously points are the most important – but turnovers are the second most important thing as far as winning ball games. You have to keep them from scoring first, but also you need to turn the ball over and our guys have done a good job of that all year. We’ve had an interception in every game except for one. I commend our guys. They’re really doing a good job.”

(On how much he credits DT Aaron Donald for where his defense is now)

“Yeah, he’s a force, but you still have to have other guys playing well. Aaron obviously is a great player and we try to get him into positon where he can make plays, but he makes them no matter what so it’s definitely a help. I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good players and he’s certainly one of the top guys that I’ve ever had. It helps your defense because you can set some things around him. If they’re trying to double team him, we can bring somebody else and somebody else gets a one-on-one or even a back has to pick up because of him. And the running game, he helps you in the running game, too, so it’s hard to run to his side. You look at the game and we’ve adjusted real well I guess, but the running game last week – the first half we didn’t do great. The second half – first play he gets him for a three-yard loss and set the tone, and they make 11 yards rushing the second half. So yeah, he’s a great player and we feed off that and try to utilize him, but he’s the guy that pulls the train.”

(On if he can describe how LB Mark Barron fits into his defensive scheme)

“Yeah, Mark’s a good fit. I’ve had – we call it the ‘MO Linebacker’ the weakside inside linebacker in the 3-4. When we first started, we called it ‘MEG’ but our guy didn’t like to be called ‘MEG,’ so we called him ‘MO’. Anyway, he fits that mold and it’s a run-hit position. It’s a little like a 3-4 outside ‘backer – weakside outside ‘backer. Similar in that you run hit. It’s not a – the ‘MIKE’ linebacker takes on more blocks and more powers and things like that, but the better the guy can cover, the more you can utilize him. If you’ve got a middle linebacker that can cover, he helps you a whole lot. You can put him on the back – double cover receivers and those kind of things, so he’s really helped us there besides the interceptions he’s made. And he plays on the third-down defense, too. So he’s an all-around good player and having a great year.”

(On if Barron’s experience as a safety helps him in that linebacker position)

“Well, the coverage part certainly. But he’s tough enough and physical enough to play inside ‘backer at that position. Again, you wouldn’t want to put him at the ‘MIKE’ linebacker where, you’ve got to take on more guards and power fullbacks and things like that.”

(On if the Vikings receiving core is the best he will face all season)

“Yeah, I mean the two we had last week – one of them scored eight touchdowns going in and the other one had seven. Every week you see different receivers, but normally you don’t see two real good ones and we’ve faced that the last two weeks. (Vikings WR Adam) Thielen and (Vikings WR Stefon) Diggs are both outstanding receivers. I believe Diggs was leading the league before he got hurt and now Thielen’s right up there, so that tells you what they can do. They’re a handful, but the tight end gives you problems too. They got a good tight end, too. It’s hard to double cover everybody. We’re going to have to win some one-on-ones or play good zone coverage in certain downs.”

(On S Lamarcus Joyner’s ability to compete at the NFL level despite being his size)

“Well, he’s a tremendous nickel corner. I mean he can play a slot receiver, but he’s a very physical guy even though he’s small in stature, he’s powerful. He’s a big hitter and he’s fast. We saw the film last year and he’s making plays, but he only plays 35 or 40 percent of the time. You’ve got to say, ‘Hey, this guy’s a really good player, he’s one of your best 11, we need to get him out there.’ Free safety, I mean he can come up and play strong safety. He’s versatile enough, but he also can cover. Again, just like the ‘MO’ linebacker, if you can cover with that guy, then you can do more things. If he can cover a tight end, which he can. If a tight end or a back splits out wide, he can cover those guys because he’s a heck of a nickel back, too. It gives you a lot of versatility because he’s a good player.”

RB Todd Gurley

(On his impressions of this Vikings defense)

“They’re great. Everybody is great on their defense. You have a great front seven and some great DBs with (Vikings S Harrison) Smith and T-New (Vikings CB Terence Newman) is a vet, (Vikings CB) Trae Waynes has a lot of speed, (Vikings CB Xavier) Rhodes has been playing lights out this year. (Vikings LB Anthony) Barr, all those guys, (LB Eric) Kendricks – definitely going to be handful this week for sure.”

(On the speed of the Vikings defense, especially the linebackers)

“No, more just the defense. A lot of stuff – maybe a couple of years ago they used to throw a lot more stuff, a lot more simple now, but they still have that stuff in their back pocket if they want to throw it out. That’s what makes them so difficult – the double-mug looks, they disguise very well, it’s very hard. But, you’re going to beat yourself, so that’s why you’ve got to prepare, know your protections, get lined up, do what you’re going to do, get on the same track as the linemen and be able to pick the blitzes up or whatever and hopefully make them pay for whatever they bring.”

(On what C John Sullivan has brought to the team)

“He makes everything so much easier, just as far as from the protection standpoint, from the line, me and (QB Jared) Goff, he just makes everybody’s life so much easier just understanding the game. He’s been doing a great job with (C Austin) Blythe, when he comes in it’s like he doesn’t miss a beat. It’s kind of, I can make the calls without even having him to make the calls because he’s been so well prepared, getting us prepared, we’re going through protection meetings, him communicating, so he’s definitely been a great addition to this team in just knowing the system and what we want and the looks that we need.”

(On what Director of Sports Medicine/Performance Reggie Scott and Head of Strength and Conditioning Ted Rath have done to help him stay healthy this season)

“We do questionnaires in the morning just to see how our body feels. Probably most teams do that, but they actually look at the data and if we feel bad, there ain’t no reason having us out there going full speed when you really can’t. As long as we communicate with those guys, they’ve been doing a great job of taking care of us as far as our body, limiting the reps or doing different exercises or different lifts, so they’ve been doing a great job. It’s good to have guys like Reggie, one of the best trainers in the league. And then Ted, him and his strength staff just coming over and just helping us get recovered for Sunday.”

(On if he been surprised with how much better QB Jared Goff has been this year)

“Not really. The guy went No. 1. Dude don’t go No. 1 for no reason. With being the No. 1 draft pick or a high draft pick there’s reasons why you’re a draft pick. You get a No. 1 pick because your team was the worst team that year – obviously we traded up to get him, but you can’t expect the dude to come turn around a franchise in a year, it just doesn’t work like that. But, he’s been doing a fantastic job – I just like the way he works and he’s just been bringing it every day, been showing us why he’s the quarterback that we drafted and doing the exact same thing he was doing at Cal. So, big ups to him and hopefully we can just keep him going and keep getting this offense going.”

(On if there has been any specific area that he has seen Goff improve in)

“I didn’t really watch him in college, so I really didn’t know his game. But, obviously like I said, just out there making plays. Sometimes even when the pocket collapses he’s able to move around in the pocket and make a couple plays, so that’s always huge. That’s just football, everything is not going to go according to the plan every play, so just him being able to get out of the pocket and makes some plays, that’s definitely huge.”

(On how much better he feels in pass protection this season)

“You got to protect the quarterback, if you can’t protect the quarterback you’re not going to play. You got to take pride in that. If you show you’re getting your ass whopped every play on pass protection then they’re going to keep blitzing you. It feels good, especially when you pick up a blitz like that and see a touchdown go for 94 yards. It doesn’t get much better than that, honestly.”

(On if him joking around with the whole team in the locker room is something he does consciously)

“No. That’s just me. The defense, they always tell me, ‘You want me be apart of the defense’, but I’ve always been a defensive guy my whole life. I guess I want to be with those guys. I kind of like everybody on the team, mess with everybody on the team and just go from one locker to another.”

(On if he feels like he has a responsibility to touch base with everyone being that he was selected as a captain this season)

“No, not really. I don’t know. I just come to work, put my best effort, show a little energy. Communicate, talk to everybody. Check on everybody. See how everybody’s doing. Everything seems fine and dandy when you’re here, but everybody has real life problems too. And you’re with those guys every day, you got to see how people are doing. Just being a good teammate, just being a good person. It’s just how I was raised.”

(On how good P Johnny Hekker has been)

“He’s basically like a second quarterback. If your quarterback can’t get the job done he’ll get the job done for you and put your team in great field position. I got to the league and I’m just like a punter making 18 million dollars, like what is this (laughs)? But, man he deserves everything plus more. Just to see how we did on offense and he can change the field around. He’s a great playmaker. He’s just making fantastic punts. It’s like, ‘Aw, he’s just a punter’, but like just to see the situations he can put you in. kicking inside the five-yard line, kicking whatever. It’s tough trying to catch the ball from him. That’s why he’s one of the best. He’s been to the Pro Bowl three years. He’s a great person, anyway. But, just the stuff (Special Teams Coach) ‘Bones’ (John Fassel) teaches those guys and that’s why he’s one of the best in the game.”