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TRANSCRIPT: LA Rams HC Sean McVay, DC Wade Phillips, RB Todd Gurley on getting ready for Tennessee Titans in Week 16

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Here’s what the three had to say as they get ready to head to Nashville.

Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley talks to the media
Los Angeles Rams RB Todd Gurley talks to the media
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay

(Opening Remarks)

“From an injury standpoint, (LB Mark) Barron was limited today, (OLB) Connor Barwin was full, (C) John Sullivan and (T) Andrew Whitworth were both limited with just their veteran days, (OLB) Matt Longacre did not participate with his back and then (CB) Troy Hill did not participate with an illness.”

(On why he decided on K Sam Ficken as the replacement for K Greg Zuerlein)

“I think really we brought in a handful of guys for a workout, Coach ‘Bones’ (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) felt really strongly about the way that his workout went and just kind of going back to his career in college and some of the things that he had done. We made an organizational decision, that was what we felt was best and we got a lot of confidence moving forward and expect good things from him.”

(On what kind of exchange he has had with Ficken)

“Yeah, just glad to have him here and looking forward to working with him. Other than that it hasn’t really been much of a chance to have too much interaction. It was good because he and (P) Johnny (Hekker), even in the workout where Johnny was holding and doing some different things like that to try to immediately get a little bit of a rapport and that will be an ongoing process throughout the course of the week and then we’ll determine kind of how that affects the way that we approach some of the decision-making on game day. But he’s excited about the opportunity, good opportunity for him to come in today with pretty good conditions, not really – about 45 mile an hour winds, so it was a good start to get him out there and get going and sounds like everything went well with (K) Greg (Zuerlein). We’re certainly going to miss Greg, what he’s meant to our football team. Had a good surgery, came out, everything sounded like it went well today and looking forward to him making a speedy recovery and getting back with us.”

(On if the team practices a lot of kicking during practice and if he will emphasize working on this more because of the addition of Ficken)

“Yeah really a lot of that – I have such confidence in ‘Bones’ and really, he relies on Greg and how much he needs. When you’ve got those veteran guys that have done it for a while, you trust that they’ve gotten their work, they know how to prepare and based on their feedback we kind of do as much as what Greg kind of feels based on you maybe sometimes kick twice a week if he feels like he only needs to go that one time and maybe get a few on a Friday, but that’s kind of been his rhythm and routine and we’ve pretty much deferred to Greg throughout the season. This week I know ‘Bones’ will be intentional about getting a couple more reps than we would have otherwise and that’s going to be important for us.”

(On if his decision-making will be affected due to the change in kickers)

“Just a little bit, yes. I think just because of the range that Greg has – you’ve got confidence in our ability to be able to make kicks, but I think the range that Greg has when you just look at the distance that he can consistently hit it from. That will change a little bit, but in terms of, ‘Are we going to be going for it on fourth downs and things like that?’ That won’t change. I think just the distance at which you would punt as opposed to maybe attempt a field goal because of the range that Greg has, that would really be the only thing that would be altered with our approach just right now.”

(On how much he keeps an eye on the practice squad)

“Well the guys that are currently with us, you’re certainly always mindful of watching those guys and seeing what they’re doing and really, we’ve been so fortunate with the injuries, but often times those guys end up being people that are exposed to your systems and get an opportunity to be brought up later on in the week and might have to perform on the 46 (man) active roster. That’s something that we’re really in tune with. I think (General Manager) Les (Snead) and his staff do a great job of kind of having a pulse around the league based on injuries and whatever occurs in a game and then do we feel like we want to elevate somebody or do we want to go outside the building to maybe fill the void dependent upon what that person’s role is, whether it’s special teams, defense, offense. So, there’s a handful of different directions that we can go, but you’re always mindful of the guys that are in your building and how they can potentially be a part of that active game-day roster before you know it.”

(On if the team is working more on kickoff coverage due to the change in kickers)

“I think it’s going to be predicated on how we feel like Sam is going to be able to kick. If we can get some touchbacks and we feel like that the approach – you look at it and I think it shows the ability for John Fassel to be able to adjust. What a lot of people don’t realize is (Zuerlein’s) been healthy throughout the whole year, but it’s been something that’s kind of been almost dormant, that back issue. That thing flares up on him the morning of the Seattle game and we thought he might not be able to go, so it was a gutsy performance for Greg. So, that’s an example there where you see some of those shorter kickoffs, we altered the approach a little bit, guys did a great job covering and keeping them pinned in there deep for the most part of the day and if we feel like that’s the best approach then that’s something that we’ll do, but that’s going to be determined as the week progresses.”

(On how he assesses the coaching staff during practice)

“That’s a great question. I think you’ve got to be able to kind of be self-reflective and look at yourself critically and that’s all of us being accountable to each other. Specifically, when you look at the Seattle game where a lot of things did go our way, you’d probably say if you’d do it over again and not because it didn’t work out, but the fourth down and one when you’re up 13-0 – they had done a good job playing more of some zone principles in some of those short yardage situations where that bootleg really probably wasn’t the best decision right there and you kind of know it, but you end up calling it anyway. So, that’s where you can’t be afraid to say, ‘That wasn’t a good call.’ Even if it didn’t work out because of the preparation going into the week. But, as long as you’re kind of able to have that self-scout and we talk about our coaches keeping each other accountable, but the players can as well. We’ve got a lot of great guys that in a respectful manner, aren’t afraid to ask questions that maybe start those conversations to where you say, ‘You know what? You’re right. This is a better way to do it.’ Or, ‘That maybe wasn’t the best decision from a coaching standpoint that I made.’ That’s kind of how we try to keep each other accountable and look at the decisions that we’re making and try to learn from the mistakes.”

(On if it’s safe to say that the kicking situation is week-to-week)

“Yeah, I would say the approach that we have right now is he’s going to do a good job for us and that we take it one day at a time. I think anytime that you have to make a quick decision like that, based on a situation that you didn’t necessarily expect to occur, you’ve got to react in a way that you feel like is the best decision. Certainly it’s not ideal to have your Pro Bowl kicker not be with you as you’re trying to go win an 11th game, which means you win a division championship. This is a big loss for us, but those are the opportunities for other guys to step up and there’s even more of an importance on our offense to do a good job of – we always talk about it anyways, but sustaining drives and trying to finish those red zone drives, specifically with touchdowns and these guys are excellent down there, so it’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

DC Wade Phillips

(Opening Remarks)

“I’m playing against another team – the Oilers. I guess they’re the Titans now – they fired me. But the good thing is, I think, I lead the league in getting fired, so I appreciate them doing that. The best thing is I lead the league in getting hired, too (laughs), so I’m hanging in there. This (Titans QB Marcus) Mariota quarterback – I’m impressed with him, especially when you pressure him. You get some pressure on him, he throws it really well. He’s a good young quarterback that can do some things that way. Obviously, their running game – they’ve got a power running game with two big backs that’re big and fast. They can grind it out, but they can also make a big, long run on you. A little like (Jaguars RB Leonard) Fournette, so it’s going to be a challenge. Their running game is going to be a big challenge too, but I’m still impressed with the quarterback. (Titans TE) Delaine Walker seems like he’s been playing forever and just playing great, still playing great at tight end. They’ve got a good group and it’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

(On if he thinks DT Aaron Donald should be considered for Defensive Player of the Year)

“Aaron Donald for Defensive Player of the Year? I was thinking more like most valuable player in the league, but yeah. There’s other good players in the league, obviously, but I think he’s far and away had the most pressures on the quarterback. He’s up there in sacks. He missed a game, came to camp late – He got a late start basically. Been tremendous on the run and the pass. I don’t know how many tackles for loss, he’s caused four fumbles. I mean, he’s a one man wrecking crew. He’s done – I can’t say enough good things about him.”

(On how well he knows Titans Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau)

“We’ve both been in the league for a long, long time and certainly crossed paths quite a few times. I have great admiration for him as a coach. He’s in the Hall of Fame as a player. He does a tremendous job. He invented the zone blitz, which everybody uses. It’s pretty amazing that somebody invented something that everybody’s playing. So he’s done that. He’s just a great guy and a great coach. I really like the guy as a person and as a coach, I look up to him.”

(On if he sees himself coaching at age 80 like LeBeau)

“We’ll see. I’m almost there, so I’m not too far behind him. As long as you have a passion and you can contribute and that’s what you like doing. I’m lucky to be where I am. I enjoy what I’m doing, I love what I’m doing. I love working with the players that I have. Those things in life – if that’s what your work is, is pretty gratifying.”

(On Donald listed as an DE and if he’s still an interior player)

“We list him as a defensive tackle I believe. We list him as a defensive tackle, because that’s what he plays. Sometimes in a 3-4 (defensive front) you list him as both ends, but he’s really not an end, he’s more of a tackle. I believe the guy from San Francisco when they were playing a 3-4…I can’t think of the defensive lineman that made the Pro Bowl every year. He was a really good player, but he was a defensive tackle in the 3-4. It’s what he plays. Especially because we have 3-4 and then also we have 4-3. A four-man front on third-downs. He plays tackle there, it’s really what he plays.”

(On his evaluation of CB Troy Hill in the Seattle game)

“Troy Hill did exceptionally well. They caught one pass for five yards on him. He had like four or five chances that he had to make the play on and he made the play on all of them. The previous game they had a 65-yarder and 70-yard touchdown against Jacksonville. He kept them from making those types of plays. I thought he played real well.”

(On if he ever remembers being a part of a defense that had seven takeaways in the opening possession before)

“No. In 40 years maybe, we have, I don’t know we’ve had some pretty good defenses, but it’s pretty amazing what they’ve done. I do remember the Steel Curtain one year – I believe I’m correct. They had like four interceptions in four games in a row. I think we were fixing to play them and I said, ‘Don’t throw the ball in the first series, c’mon now.’ But I hadn’t heard anything like this, a team turning the ball over on the first series like we have so it’s pretty special.”

(On what has led to the defense forcing turnovers on the first drive)

“Good players. I think we have a good defense. Some of the stats aren’t there, because we gave up some run yardage earlier in the year and we gave up some yards early in the year. But, we’ve played some awfully good offensive teams. I think we’re one of the best defenses in the league. If you’re good, good things happen.”

(On the difference between Tennessee’s offensive line and Seattle’s offensive line)

“We had a tremendous game against Seattle. Their quarterback is a great player and he’d only been sacked seven times the previous four games. It’s not like, ‘Wow, their offensive line wasn’t any good.’ He’s always running around with the ball, but he’s made plays. We kept him from making some of those plays and we had a good rush. Pro football is matchups. You try to get as good of a matchup as you can. You can run some things where you get someone free on the quarterback every once in a while, but most people don’t get somebody free so what you have to do is try to get a good matchup. That’s what you try to do. Tennessee’s got a really good offensive line. They haven’t been sacked all that much. We’ve played some teams that haven’t been sacked. Minnesota wasn’t sacked any when we played them. It just depends on the team and the players, the quarterback, the offensive line – how quickly they get rid of the football and sometimes it’s against you. Sometimes you’re playing somebody that they’re going to throw the ball quick every time, but you got to get pressures on them. That’s why I think Aaron Donald’s so good is because our pass defense is pretty darn good. When you pressure the quarterback that much it’s going to help your pass defense.”

RB Todd Gurley

(On what it would mean to win the NFC West)

“It would mean a lot. I really haven’t thought too much into it – just win the game, take care of business and give us another week to play after the season, honestly.”

(On if he is excited about potentially getting a division championship hat)

“I don’t care about no hat. It’s just a hat and t-shirt. It’s a good accomplishment, but it’s just a hat.”

(On what kind of impact the loss of K Greg Zuerlein will have on the team)

“I don’t know, man. I really haven’t thought into it too much. Obviously he’s one of the leading scorers in the NFL. He’s been doing a great job all year, so it’s definitely going to affect you, but hopefully the new guy comes in and makes some extra points. Hopefully, now we just get into a situation and we want to score, not rely on the field goals. Obviously, everyone has a job and if it’s time for (K) Sam (Ficken) to make some kicks, then hey, it’s time to make some kicks. But as an offense, we want to be able to score and execute, so won’t have to even put that pressure on him.”

(On what it means for him to get back to the Pro Bowl)

“It’s a good accomplishment. We just took care of business on the field and everything else took care of itself. It means a lot just for more of my teammates and just as a team, us winning and having five guys in – it means a lot.”

(On if he pays any attention to the MVP talk)

“Yeah, I guess they talked about me, because (Eagles QB) Carson (Wentz) got hurt and then ‘AB’ (Steelers WR Antonio Brown) got hurt. But, I don’t really see how you can take a guy out of the MVP like ‘AB.’ Like two games are not going to make a difference. You take Carson out and like what are three games going to do? It’s cool to get the recognition, but it is what it is. Running backs don’t usually win the award unless you mess your leg up and rush for 2,000 yards the next year, you don’t really have a choice but to give it to a beast like that. So, I’m just going to keep playing hard and finish the season strong, honestly.”

(On if he thinks he has a chance at winning MVP)

“Somewhat, but not really. We’ll see.”