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TRANSCRIPT: Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay, DC Wade Phillips, RB Todd Gurley December 20 press conference

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Here’s what the trio had to say today.

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay

(On if RB Todd Gurley II will practice today)

”You know what, I haven’t talked to (Senior Director, Sports Medicine and Performance) Reggie (Scott) about that yet. I was getting ready to meet with him right before I was walking over here. I haven’t gotten an update on how he’s feeling, so I’m not sure.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Gurley did not practice today.]

(On how RB Justin Davis is doing)

”He’s making good progress. He’s a lot better than I think what we anticipated earlier in the week. But, we’ll see on both those guys and I get a chance to talk to Reggie and those guys next.”

(On what he gains the most from a little adversity)

”Well, I think, really, you get a chance to really see if you can be what you say. It’s easy when things are going well. This is a great opportunity, not only for us as coaches and myself, but for our players to demonstrate the mental toughness that we talk about. Be consistent with the way that we go about our work. Not be afraid to take accountability for some of the things that have led to us not achieving the outcomes that maybe we want and staying connected. The biggest thing is that I would say that you truly get tested. That’s what’s been great about the way that this team has responded with a little bit of adversity that we faced. I’ve sensed the same exact demeanor. If anything, it’s been a great response that they’ve had. They’re doing a great job with the way that we’re attacking this week. I believe it’s going to put us in position to have a good performance as a team on Sunday.”

(On Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips’ opening statement - the sky is not falling – and if he agrees with that statement)

”Absolutely, yeah. I mean nobody’s ready to press the panic button, but we do want to be solution-oriented. To say that there’s not a little bit level of increased urgency from myself, from some people, would not be accurate. But, we work really hard to try to make sure that we’re able to appreciate and enjoy the outcomes that we’ve gotten more times than not. What you can do is, as long as you’re working as hard as you possibly can, doing all the little things the right way, that’s really what we define. We want to compete to the best of our ability and if you don’t have any regrets, then you let the pieces fall where they may. But, when we’re doing things that are very fixable, are very avoidable based on the way that we prepare – how much clarity are we able to give them as coaches – those are the things that eat at your gut and make you want to make sure that you don’t make these same mistakes twice. When you lose, that’s part of it because of the competitive nature of this league – how good coaches and players are from other teams. But, when things that are being done that we feel like are very correctable and avoidable that, really, we haven’t done, that’s where we’ve got to have some urgency to fix those things.”

(On if he feels like he’s identified what the problems are and if so, how close he is to fixing them)

”Oh, yeah. I think it’s pretty clear. It’s not really a magic solution. We’re not taking as good of care of the football. We’ve got to do that. When we do get the turnovers, we’ve got to be able to turn those into points and not just field goals, but touchdowns. Then, we’ve got to avoid the negative plays and we’ve got to create them on defense. It’s a simple solution. Things that we have done at different points in this year and we’ve just got to get back to emphasizing those things and making sure we understand how important they are because we’ve been in a lot of games like what that (Philadelphia Eagles) ‘Philly’ game was. Really, it was probably even more of a struggle early on in the game against Green Bay (Packers). We just didn’t turn it over and then when you really look at it, (LB) Mark Barron’s able to make a safety to get it to a 10-2 ball game. We get a little bit of momentum where you hit (RB) Todd (Gurley II) on the crossing route. Then, at the end of the game, (LB) Ramik Wilson makes a big-time play to force the fumble and we run the clock out. So, there’s been a lot of games that are very similar, but those couple plays that end up making the difference in winning and losing and achieving the outcome that you want, are very important and we do feel like they’re very fixable.”

(On it going smooth since he’s been here and how he has taken the results emotionally and if he’s sleeping as good as he normally does)

”I am. Really, I think it’s a great challenge. You talk about, ‘Are you really living what you say?’ It’s one thing when you’re going through a win streak – different things like that – to be able to say all the right things. But when you go through a little bit of adversity, let’s make sure that we talk it to all our players all the time about we see better than we hear. Let’s see your reactions align with what your core beliefs and your values are. That’s what we hope to be able to lean back on when you do go through some adversity and that’s what’s going to hopefully help us come through this on the right end and I think we’re on track to doing that.”

(On what he recalls about S John Johnson III when they turned him into a starter last season and how he has continued to deliver on what they told him)

”Really, it’s a lot of the same things that made you like him so much coming out of Boston College – the versatility, the football instincts, the IQ. He really was doing a great job just getting better and better. I can even remember going back to his first training camp. He gets pulled aside with (Safeties) Coach (Ejiro) Evero and they do a great job of identifying some things that can help him really play at a higher level. What you love about (S) John (Johnson III) is he responded exactly the right way. He’s got all the traits and characteristics that you’re looking for. Then, just the overall communication skills. Got great ball skills. He’s really smooth. He’s a great tackler in traffic, too – a great wrap tackler. Has a good feel for how to negotiate space and be able to shoot his gun and be able to wrap guys up and get them down. Then, he can also play in the post. So, you’re really not limited in any way that you can utilize a player of his versatility and he’s been great.”

(On if he considers getting a first-round bye in the playoffs critically important)

”I think it’s important that we play well and try to go win a football game this week and we’ll see what ends up happening. To say that if you have a chance to achieve a bye and you’re automatically in the divisional round and that’s not something we would want, that wouldn’t be accurate. But, I do believe that it’s about taking the necessary steps to even have those types of conversations. You sometimes get ahead of yourself where you start looking too far ahead and then you’re like, ‘Wow, we just lost another game and now we’re not even in position to be able to do that.’ So, for us to even have that conversation, we’ve got to take care of business with a good day of practice today and then hopefully it leads to that performance. Then, we’ll see what’s next. That is something that I would be lying if I said that wasn’t important, but the only way we achieve that is by taking care of business this week.”

(On what it was like to see CB Aqib Talib get an interception against the Philadelphia Eagles)

”It was great. Really, you’re looking at a situation when it’s 30-13, they’re going into score. That was a big-time play that could’ve totally shifted the dynamics of the game, where maybe it ends up being different. But I know this, it did shift and alter just the momentum, for sure, where we’re able to turn that into points. Does a great job. That’s what’s special about (CB) Aqib (Talib) is he understands where his play ops (opportunities) are, where he can be greedy based on some of the calls or where we are on the field. That’s what’s made him such an instinctual, great player is the overall intelligence, the IQ – like we’re talking about with John Johnson – matches up with the talent, the ball skills to be able to finish and make those plays. It was great to see Aqib do that.”

(On if he has conversations with his players about situational awareness such as kickoff returns)

”Absolutely. Those are things that (Special Teams Coordinator) ‘Bones’ (John Fassel) does a great job of communicating. Like you hear us say all the time, it’s important. Players are always going to want to compete, specifically if you’re talking about returning kicks. We’ve got to give them clarity with what exactly we’re looking for and why. That’s something that keeps us accountable as coaches – why we want to be able to do this and then here’s the reasons. I think that helps them – that creates a better understanding. But, those are certainly things – every single play entails a situational understanding. Really, it goes back to doing a great job of playing complementary football with all three phases. That was one of the things, going back to the Chicago game, where I was as disappointed in myself as anything, is just going back to having a feel for the flow of the way that our defense was playing and not putting ourselves in position to get a safety on second down. How can you be smarter, how can you be better for your players with some of the plays that you’re giving to a defense that – you still always want to go compete, but if you’re feeling a certain way or a certain momentum is kind of occurring, how can we find the best way to dig ourselves out of it as opposed to leaving ourselves susceptible to some mistakes. That was most importantly something that I felt like going back to that game. You learn from it and you move forward, but every single week is a learning opportunity.”

DC Wade Phillips

(Opening statement)

“First of all, the sky’s not falling. The Denver team I was on, lost Week 14 and 15. (Defensive Line Coach) Bill Johnson’s Super Bowl team they lost the last three games so. Our record is what it is, it’s one of the better. We want to make it better by winning this ball game this week. We’re putting all our energy towards that, we’re always trying to improve and that’s what our focus is this week.”

(On Super Bowl winners historically struggling in December and if he can make a case that teams take their foot off the gas a little)

“I don’t know, if I knew the answer we probably wouldn’t have lost any games at Denver or here or wherever. I do think a lot of it is motivation, we got to get the team motivated. Once you capture your division, you’ve already won something, I think there’s a natural tendency to relax, but that’s not an excuse. We didn’t relax, I thought we played hard. I think we’re alright. We just got to play well this game and keep going.”

(On what areas he has seen S John Johnson III improve in this season)

“(S) John Johnson was already a good player. I think he was overlooked a little bit from last year. He made a lot of plays last year. But his tackling is so outstanding, I think, open field, around the ball, around the line of scrimmage those kinds of things. He’s learned playing pro football and playing our defense. I think he’s learned more and more about what to do in different areas that he plays. Like I said, he plays a lot of different positions, which we’re able to do with him. He plays linebacker – he rushes some, but he plays linebacker, he plays safety, strong safety and free safety.”

(On being as skilled as he is and how many seasons he need put together to be a really solid player)

“I think he’s a good player right now.”

(On how many seasons does he need for other people to recognize him as a strong player)

”They need to watch film (laughs). I don’t know. I mean I love my players certainly, but I try to be realistic and I think he’s a good football player.”

(On CB Aqib Talib getting his first interception of the season and how he’s done since coming off IR and what he means to the defense)

“Yes, I mean, I’ve said it all along how smart he is and what a good leader he is. But he’s an athletic player. I think coming back from an injury it takes a little time. Especially this injury, to really get his acceleration up. He has his speed back, I think, but just accelerating towards the ball. I saw that in the ball game when he came off one guy and came and made the interception. He didn’t run it all the way for the touchdown, which I know disappointed him because he’s pretty close to the all-time record for interceptions run back for touchdowns. You can see our team has gotten better since he’s been back, I think – I’m talking about our pass defense overall.”

(On which of the players he’s coached resembles DT Aaron Donald the most)

“(DT) Aaron Donald? I didn’t coach (Hall of Famer DT) John Randle, but I think just watching John Randle when he played, he had some similar attributes because he played inside. Like I’ve said before, I don’t think I’ve coached a guy – I mean (Hall of Famer DE) Reggie White we had inside for a while, moved him outside. (Texans DE) J.J. Watt we moved him out to defensive end so not many of them, no. (Hall of Famer DL) Curley Culp the nose guard, he’s in the Hall of Fame. (Hall of Famer DE) Elvin Bethea played a similar position, he’s in the Hall of Fame. So, I’ve had some pretty good players, but he’s certainly right up there equal or better.”

(On Donald’s increased amount of sacks this year and how much of that is due to his own personal improvement and how much of it is how DT Ndamukong Suh is being utilized to free him up)

“It’s mostly him. We try get him in one-on-one as much as possible. But he beats them two-on-one. First time we played Arizona they had both guys blocking him and he made several plays – in several games he’s done that. Certainly having (DT Ndamukong) Suh – but they’re not turning towards Suh, they’re going towards Aaron Donald. Basically, the teams that we’ve played lately, the center is almost 100 percent going to double Aaron in passing situations. We know that.”

(On how fulfilling it is to have the front that he has)

“Yeah, I think we’re progressing there. (OLB) Dante (Fowler Jr.) came in, I think he’s helped us in the pass rush. We just need to get them in third downs and get them in situations where they have to throw the ball. I think that’s the strength of ours now, so first and second down we got to make plays and not let them run the football. It’s the same theory you have every team. You got to stop the run and force them to throw it. But in our case, I think if we force them to throw it we’re going to get some pressure.”

(On Head Coach Sean McVay saying he talked to CB Marcus Peters about leaving the bench to go talk to someone in the stands during the game)

“Do I ever talk to anybody in the stands.”

(Pardon me?)

“Were you going to say do I ever talk to anybody in the stands? I say hello to my wife (laughs).”

(On if he addressed the incident with Peters)

“Well I think it’s already been done. But sure. I think it’s the same that (Head Coach) Sean (McVay) said. That ain’t what we want to do.”

(On what he’s seen in Cardinals QB Josh Rosen)

“Yes, he’s a talented player. He’s got the quick arm. He can avoid the rush pretty well, he can run with it but he doesn’t run with it a whole lot. He’s athletic and he’s thrown the ball, I think, really well inside the 20-yard line. He’s thrown the ball really well in that area where you have to make sharp, quick throws and accurate throws. You know, they’ve been up and down obviously but you can see he’s coming along. And the running back, haven’t talked about that, but he’s almost at 1,000 yards. They’ve got some weapons. I mean (Cardinals WR) Larry’s (Fitzgerald) Larry. He’s going to get some catches and out muscle people for the ball. So they’ve got some weapons that we need to be able to stop.”

(On what has made Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald so consistent over the course of his career)

”Number one, I think he’s such a – he’s talented, obviously. But, I think he’s just such a complete player. He blocks as good as any wide receiver and he’s always done that. He hustles every play and he’s talented enough and big enough and strong enough and has great hands. He keeps working every play. If it extends, he’s working every play. He’s a great, great player and a great person, too, which is neat. That’s the one thing I enjoy about this league is you get the Aaron Donald’s of the world who are great players and they’re also great people. He’s the same kind of guy.”

(On his impressions of RB C.J. Anderson while together in Denver and what he thinks he can add to this team)

”I really think a lot of (RB) C.J. (Anderson). I think he was a big factor in our Super Bowl. In fact, he was a really big factor in the Super Bowl game because I think he had 80-something yards and we didn’t have but, what, a hundred-and-something passing. He was really a tremendous factor in that ball game by keeping the running game going, keeping them off the field some. Our defense played great, but I thought he played great in that game, too. He’s one of the reasons I have a Super Bowl ring. I’m glad. I’m glad we’ve got him now.”

RB Todd Gurley

(On how he’s feeling and if he thinks he’ll be able to play on Sunday)

”Yeah, I think I’ll be fine, man. Just taking it day-by-day recovering, resting, trying to feel better.”

(On if they have given him any indication on how his preparation will go throughout the week)

”Ha. Practice (laughs). Nah, I don’t plan on practicing.”

(On how important he feels it is for him to play these next two games with the Rams still trying to secure a first-round bye)

”That’s for sure. That’s the goal. Obviously, we should’ve took care of that two weeks ago. We didn’t. We’re in a situation we’re in now. That’s why we need to win these last two games and try to get everyone on that field to play.”

(On how he balances playing with his health and playoffs in mind)

”I don’t worry about that. At the end of the day, like I said, we’ve got a first-round bye that we want to get and we need to go get that. So, we’re not worrying about three weeks from now. We need to worry about this week.”

(On having a heavy workload these last couple years and if he feels like he should be rested for the playoffs)

”I haven’t had that much of a workload the last month, but if you say so. I’ve had games when I’ve had 30 touches. I’m here to play ball. I’m not worried about January to the fifth. We’re on December 20th. We play a game Sunday. Playoffs are going to take care of itself.”

(On what if he’s told he isn’t playing even if he felt like he could)

”We’ve got a game to win. I’m pretty sure me being out there – if I can be out there – I would put this team in a good position to help them win. So, why wouldn’t I be out there if I can play? In the situation that we are – we just lost two. We’re trying to get a first-round bye. That’s what we’re trying to do - we’re trying to win.”

(On Head Coach Sean McVay saying that he won’t adversely affect his ability to stay healthy by making him play)

”I’m not going to go out there and jeopardize my future as well, so it works both ways – me communicating with (Senior Director, Sports Performance and Medicine) Reggie (Scott), coaching staff, everyone and all of us being on the same page. I’m not going to tell those guys I’m fine when I’m not and go out there and could risk something else. So, it’s a two-way street. That’s why we communicate with each other – me, coach, Reggie, (Director of Strength Training and Performance) Ted (Rath), everybody – we all have a great relationship and that’s just how it works. Just keep trying to get better every day with rehab and all that stuff. But, like I said man, just trying to get better every day. Plan to go on Sunday and we’ll just see from there.”

(On if he would be playing if the game was today)

”Today? That’s a tough question. I haven’t tried to run. So, yeah, that’s a tough question.”

(On how he helps catch RB C.J. Anderson up to speed)

”It’s football. Everyone has the same plays, just different terminology. He’s been working his tail off the last two days. He’s been up here probably almost the whole day, honestly. He’s a veteran player. He knows what to do. It’s different, too – each week you do like gameplans. It’s not like he’s trying to learn the whole offense. We’ve got gameplans so he just needs to learn these certain plays. We’ve got a great head coach and great offensive line, everyone. We’re all going to help each other out.”

(On Browns RB Nick Chubb and Patriots RB Sony Michel and how well they’re playing)

”It’s crazy, man. Those guys have been having a great rookie year. Good to see (Browns RB Nick) Chubb. Chubb is the reason that Cleveland is winning now. It just feels good to see him over there just balling out, doing his thing. You put (Patriots RB) Sony (Michel) with the GOAT and that’s just going to make him the player he is. He’s already a special player. I feel real good when I get to see those guys balling and doing their thing.”

(On if Cardinals RB David Johnson ever sent him a thank you note for resetting the running back market to help him get a new contract)

”Nah. I wouldn’t say I reset the market. I was the first one to get that deal. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t worrying about me and I wasn’t worrying about him. At the end of the day, if you’re happy with what your deal is, then hey, that’s what it’s supposed to be. He deserved it, man. He just happened to have a stupid wrist injury that prevented him from not playing all of last year. The year before that – 20 touchdowns, great player. Tough season just overall for the (Arizona) Cardinals. Everyone knows what (Cardinals RB) David (Johnson) is capable of. He’s a great running back and he’s dangerous out of the backfield.”

(On if he feels a sense of urgency given the team’s performance the past two weeks)

”Yeah, for sure. Definitely make you want to play, for sure, just being what we’ve done the last two games, which was nothing. So, we’ve got to get it together.”