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TRANSCRIPT: LA Rams HC Sean McVay, DC Wade Phillips, RB Todd Gurley

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

Los Angeles Rams DC Wade Phillips in Week 16
Los Angeles Rams DC Wade Phillips in Week 16
Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay

(Opening Remarks)

“From an injury standpoint, (WR/KR) Pharoh Cooper did not participate with his shoulder, (DB) Blake Countess was limited with a concussion, (WR) Michael Thomas did not participate with his ankle and then (LB) Mark Barron was limited with his Achilles.”

(On if resting veteran players and changing the practice schedule was on his radar all along or did he consult with somebody regarding those changes)

“Yeah, like we’ve talked about before, when I worked for (Washington Head Coach) Jay Gruden and worked for (former Tampa Bay Head Coach) Jon (Gruden), they were good about taking care of some of those veterans. Also, like we’ve mentioned over and over, you rely on (Director of Sports Medicine/Performance) Reggie Scott and (Head of Strength and Conditioning) Ted Rath and their expertise. The one thing that you have gotten a little bit more exposure to is kind of the sports science approach and when you’ve got the veteran players that are capable of understanding, ‘Okay, this is for your benefit, but it doesn’t mean you’re just off.’ The emphasis has to be above the neck, you’ve got to do a good job with some of the cardio and different things that we will do to supplement not being out there. I think when you have the players that we do, they’ve demonstrated that it’s been the right approach, the right decision and then it’s also served us well to be able to get some of those younger players some of the reps in practice. You look at the way that (C) Austin Blythe has been able to perform when he’s had to come in, in a couple instances for (C) John (Sullivan). That’s obviously a big credit to Austin and (Offensive Line) Coach (Aaron) Kromer, but also just being able to get some of those reps throughout the course of the week.”

(On his approach towards the veteran players has helped OLB Robert Quinn)

“I think it has helped. It’s also a credit to these players. It’s one thing to kind of give them the tools, but it’s another thing to be able to be disciplined enough to follow it out and you see it kind of pay off towards the end of the year, especially when you just look at what a grind the season is. But Robert has been a guy that we’ve been extremely pleased with. You see the athleticism, you see the speed off the edge and then the production to match. I think you look at the impact that he’s made in these games, offenses have to prepare for him, (DT) Aaron (Donald) gets a lot of credit for the things that he’s done and rightfully so, but I certainly think that Robert has made a huge impact from our front and he’s done a great job.”

(On what his thoughts were on RB Todd Gurley II when he was coming out of college and his thoughts of Gurley when he got the job)

“I think when you just look at him coming out of Georgia, very rarely do you see a player of that size returning kicks, taking kicks to the house and having that long speed to finish. You see the consistent production, you see the athleticism where he’s hurdling over people and things like that. Coming off the injury, I don’t think a lot of people were surprised when he got drafted so highly because of the caliber of player that he was. A lot of people talked about, he hadn’t seen a running back come out like him, really since (Cardinals RB) Adrian Peterson kind of was the only one in that caliber. I think he’s kind of lived up to that billing. When you look at it last year, the production I think sometimes can fool you where numbers can be a little bit misleading and that can be both from a good and a bad standpoint and it’s the tape that you really want to look at and evaluate and you want to see the skillset. What you see from his rookie year and even his second year, this is an incredibly talented player. I think one of the mistakes that people sometimes make is you automatically attribute the run game to the running back alone and I think to this year, certainly you’re seeing a lot of great things from Todd, but I think he would be one of the first people to tell you that this is a credit to his teammates as well. Linemen being targeted the right way up front, their combinations, tight ends willing to compete and then those receivers on the perimeter are where you really see those good running team separate themselves. But, when you look at the body of work, he’s been a guy that you’ve always been a big fan of. When you get around him, you’ve even been more impressed with the daily work ethic, the way that he goes about his business and it’s been fun as a coach to be able to see kind of that payoff in games with the production that he’s had and he’s been instrumental to the success that we’ve had this year.”

(On if WR Pharoh Cooper will be good to play on Sunday and if WR Tavon Austin has been taking punt return reps in practice)

“Pharoh’s still been able to do that just because of the way that we practice our special teams, you slow the tempo down a little bit. But because he is so important and such an intricate part of what we’re going to try to do, he’s on track to play. You just want to be smart with him where when you do a little bit slowed down version of some of the special teams he’s able to take part in that. But if that wasn’t the case, then you look at (WR) Cooper Kupp or Tavon (Austin) would be in line, but we fully anticipate Pharoh being ready to go and I think he’d tell you the same thing.”

(On what his confidence level is for K Sam Ficken after two weeks)

“I think so. I think last week there were kicks that he can tell you, he expects to make, but you still got to go out there and make them. I’ve said this before, and ‘Bones’ (Special Teams Coordinator John Fassel) and I kind of joke about it, I got a chance to work in Washington with (former Redskins Special Teams Coach) Danny Smith who now is a great special teams coordinator for the Steelers, and he always used to joke about, people say it’s a chip shot, but there’s a lot of things that go into making that kick that there’s not chip shots in this league. when you look at the rush, the snap, the hold, the kick. I think with what he can control and what he did, you look at the way he responded in Tennessee and then last week’s performance against San Francisco. He did very well and we have a lot of confidence in Sam going into a big game.”

(On if there’s an element of the unknown in terms of long field goal attempts for Ficken)

“I think there’s always is that uncertainty, but what we’ve seen from him in practice and that’s the closest thing we can do to project right now – he’s done a great job. I think just as he get’s more comfortable with the surrounding environment and the guys here – I think guys have done a great job welcoming him here and making him feel comfortable. Then, the last couple of games you look at where it all started in Tennessee and those elements were a little bit more difficult as well. Those are things that you can’t take for granted and probably not talking upright. But, he seems like he’s a mentally tough guy that kind of us un-phased. You hear us talk about Jared (Goff), in the little bit of exposure you’ve had to Sam. He’s got a nice way about himself where he doesn’t seem like any moment’s too big for him and love the way he responded in Tennessee and last week. Until you get into those games, there’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s the same thing where you talk about our inexperience as a team, but I think we’re confident. We’re excited about the opportunity and I think Sam feels the same way.”

(On how much an elite interior defensive lineman like DT Aaron Donald can impact the entire game)“He can impact in a lot of ways. I think it’s very rare that you see a player of his caliber, but he’s one of the few people in the world that can totally disrupt the game plan especially from that interior defensive lineman spot. I think you look at the Seattle game alone, he had a different look in his eye and if you see a guy kind of take over a game, that to me is what it looks like. But he’s a dominate player. I think the thing that is so impressive that I think a lot of times it get’s lost is that you think, he comes in and really doesn’t play the first week and really the second week he only had a couple days of practice where you’re just kind of getting where you’re just kind of getting your legs underneath you. There’s a reason why we have training camp and things like that. So what he’s done is even more impressive when you take all that into account. Sure glad that he came and he’s played very well. We’re glad that he’s on our team.”

(On how big of an asset having Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur is, because he was one the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff last season)

“I think it is helpful. I think you look at what a great coach Matt (LaFleur) is and the experience that he had. It is very helpful. I think at the same time too you look at the tape and you want the guys especially defensively to be able to react. I think you can sometimes maybe give too much information and slow guys down. That was something that you had to be real mindful of especially when we played Washington for me earlier in the year. Matt’s (LaFleur) got a great way of being able to kind of give information in those small bite sized increments where they can kind of utilize it to their advantage hopefully this week. But it’s not something that will slow down and kind of make you over think some things. It’s a great offense. Matt Ryan’s a great quarterback. There’s a reason he was MVP in the league last year. I certainly think you look at Matt LaFleur and where he’s been. It seems like successful quarterback play kind of follows him. Matt’s (Ryan) a great quarterback, but I think Matt LaFleur’s a great coach. We’re fortunate that he’s here and I think he’s done a great job with our guys and certainly his time in Atlanta – they had a lot of success as well.”

DC Wade Phillips

(Opening Remarks)

“The Falcons – we know, obviously the quarterback was the MVP last year. They’ve got two really good running backs, the offensive line is really good, they’ve got maybe the best receiver in the league and I think they’re playing well. They’ve kind of hit their stride here at the end of the year as far as their offense is concerned. So, it’s obviously a big game, but it’s going to be a tough offense to play against, but we’re going to give it our best, certainly.”

(On how he feels CB Trumaine Johnson has matched up against opponents’ top receivers this year)

“Trumaine? Oh, about 11-5 I think (laughs). He does a good job. He’s versatile to play both sides, which really helps you. Again, to play against the other team’s top receiver in zone or man. He can disguise what he’s in, so he’s not necessarily playing the guy man-to-man all the time. I think he does a good job for us. Our pass defense has really been pretty good.”

(On if there’s anything specific that Falcons WR Julio Jones brings to the table)

“He’s an elite receiver. He may be the best – if not one of the best for sure in the league. He’s set all kinds of records already in his career. This year he’s having a tremendous year. I think he has the most yardage of anybody in the league, so he’s a hard guy to stop.”

(On how having Offensive Coordinator Matt LaFleur who coached Falcons QB Matt Ryan last year helps him in his game planning going into Saturday’s match up)

“Some of the nuances in what they’re doing are similar, but the guy was a great player last year and he’s continued that. So, it doesn’t influence how we play in certain coverages – it’s how well we cover. I don’t know that you gain a whole lot. Overall, we get a concept, but other than that I don’t think you gain a great deal.”

(On what he has seen on tape that made him believe that the Falcons are playing better now)

“I just look at the last ball game. They’ve played some really good teams and really played well against them. In this last game, I thought they moved the ball really well. They’re hard to stop in the running game and then the quarterback gets rid of the football. Like I said – he was MVP, so he’s a real elite quarterback, so that gives you problems.”

(On how important it is to get pressure on Ryan and to make him feel uncomfortable in the pocket)

“That’s our goal. Even the great quarterbacks under pressure – it causes problems for them. So, if we can get pressure on him, that certainly would help us. They’ve got a good offensive line, too. I think they’re strong up front and he knows when to get rid of the ball quick and then he also knows when to hold onto the ball. He’s not sacked a whole lot, so I’m impressed with what they do.”

(On if the big games that the Rams have played in this year are helpful to them now)

“Oh yeah, I think so. Anytime you play what, everybody feels like is a big game – you’re playing for the division against Seattle, you’re playing to get in the playoffs against Tennessee – those are playoff-type atmospheres as far as mentally getting prepared to play and pressure on you – all of those things. So, I don’t see a whole lot of difference – except the Super Bowl is really the one that kind of stands out different than all of the playoff games as opposed to the big games played during the year, especially at the end of the year. The ones at the end of the year are really to get into the playoffs and that’s playoff-type game atmosphere. We’re excited, our crowd – hopefully we’ll get a big crowd that’ll help us too. That would be great for us.”

RB Todd Gurley

(On how comfortable the process was for him to develop into a receiving back)

“I don’t know. I looked at it as watching guys like (Pittsburgh RB) Le’Veon (Bell), (Arizona RB) David Johnson and just guys in the past. Like I said, it’s easier to make one or two guys miss than running the ball with 11 people coming to tackle you. Obviously the more balls you get, just keep getting thrown at you, the more you’re going to get comfortable with it. Any ball that comes my way now, I feel like I can catch. You know, if you don’t catch the ball the obviously you don’t know how good of a catcher you can be. But, (Head) Coach (Sean) McVay and just the whole offense this year defiantly helped me to bring that to my game this year.”

(On if was a natural thing to catch passes from the beginning for him)

“I’ve been playing football my whole life. I don’t see how hard it is just to catch a pigskin coming your way and you’ve got gloves, so I mean if you can’t do that you don’t need to be playing football.”

(On if he feels refreshed after sitting out or if he just feels the same)

“Yeah, the same (laughs). Nothing too different.”

(On how difficult it was for him to deal with the first two seasons of losing and now how gratifying it is to be winning now)

“You kind of see that growing up and that’s what I tell a lot of the young guys – enjoy it because unless you’re going to the Patriots every year, those guys are usually the ones winning. Obviously I was a top-10 pick, so you kind of know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and just know you want to be the guy to change that around. Definitely no one likes losing, that’s just whether you’ve been losing your whole life, no one likes losing and it always feels a lot better when you’re winning.”

(On if playing the Falcons in the playoffs is special because he played at Georgia)

“Yeah, I lost my voice from the game and I still ain’t got it back yet. It will definitely be special. At the game just seeing all the Georgia fans, I was kind of beefing with them just a little bit because we’re trying to disappoint their Falcons this weekend. At the end of the day, I’m not from Georgia, so it doesn’t make too big of an effect on me.”

(On if it’s the same game in the playoffs or does it feel different once the game starts)

“Yeah, for us. Obviously it’s the playoffs, so it’s going to be a different atmosphere. But, at the end of the day, it’s just another game, another game that you want to win and it’s just one of those games. If you don’t win your season is over, so just that type of attitude – win or go home. For the most part, it’s definitely just another game, but it’s a big one for sure.”

(On what it was like being at the Rose Bowl)

“It was exciting and I went to the Super Bowl last year and I thought that was a great game, just being able to go to that game, it was exciting. I was speechless, I was too excited, I was happy, lost my voice. It was a good experience for me, I’m not going to lie – whether we won or whether we lost it was good. Definitely excited they got the win.”

(On what he thinks Georgia’s chances are against Alabama)

“We’re at home. We’re going to get it done. I’m sorry Bama, but you’re about to lose back-to-back. I need my Dawgs to win for sure.”

(On what types of things Head Coach Sean McVay and the other coaches put into him being more of a factor in the pass game)

“The main thing for me was just watching the film and you’re like, ‘Oh snaps, like hey, this could be me.’ And having that mindset to work at it, to get better at it and to actually learn it. Just him coming in and adding that into my game, and me wanting to be able to be coachable and him doing a great job of coaching me. That just all came together and we’ve been able to get some catches in this year, honestly. It’s been going well, so hopefully we can keep that up.”

(On how much fun it is to be incorporating into the receiving game)

“Oh, it’s a lot of fun man. Like I said, I’m always back there and I’m looking – it’s a stacked box and I’m like, ‘Oh snaps.’ Even the runs that do work out, your still back there like, ‘How this going to work out?’ But being in some open space is always fun as a receiver.”

(On what it would mean to his teammates and the team as a whole if he won league MVP)

“It would mean a lot, honestly. You try not to think about those things, but since it’s an arm’s reach, it’s like why not think about it? Or why not try to win it? But, it’ll be a greater team award – just to see how far we came and just to be mentioned with the great (Patriots QB) Tom Brady as a most valuable player in this league. There’s so many great players in this league, man. It’s definitely a blessing, but if we win that – we’ll definitely be excited on the Rams; everybody. People might be more excited than I am.”

(On if he’s experienced an uptick in people recognizing and praising him around Los Angeles)

“Same old. Every time you go out, you know, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. Take us to the Super Bowl.’ Typical fan answers, ‘Hey, we got you. That’s the plan. That’s the goal.’”

(On what you chean get away with playing on the collegiate level that won’t work on the professional level)

“Everything. College, you can do a couple things on your own. I mean just based off God given ability and being about to break some tackles. But honestly, if your team’s not clicking, I don’t care whether you’re in the NFL, pee-wee – if things are not clicking and going the right way then nothing’s going to work for anybody. You’re going to make plays here and there, that’s just where being a good athlete or being a player ball player – that’s what you’re going to do. But if you can’t get offense, O-line, receivers, running back, QB, tight ends, everybody on the same page then nothing’s going to work. The thing about offense is it takes one guy to mess up the whole play. Everybody else can be doing the right thing, but it takes all 11 for sure.”

(On selecting University of Georgia and their running back legacy)

“I remember my coach coming and he was like, ‘Yeah, Georgia called.’ And ‘I’m like okay.’ And he came the next day and he started talking about football and started talking about Hershel Walker and I didn’t know a clue about Georgia football and being on campus that’s just the expectation. They haven’t won since ‘81 so they try to compare every running back to Hershel Walker and just lead them to the promise land, but those guys have been doing a great job. (RBs Nick) Chubb, (Michel) Sony, (D’Andre) Swift, (Brian) Herrien all those guys – (RB Elijah) Holyfield. They’ve been balling, they’ve been playing their tails off and they’ve been working hard. You get what you put in and those guys been balling since they got there at Georgia even when I was there and just to see where they’re at now just makes it so much better.”

(On if he’s nervous for Sunday’s game)

“You have your days. You might get hype one day and the next day you’re like, ‘It’s whatever.’ I don’t know, man. I’m just trying to focus on each day and then once the game comes, talk to my teammates about the game. I try not to make nothing bigger than what it is, honestly.”