Back into the routine of the workday Wednesday, getting ready to roll. Guys were very attentive in the meetings and stuff. Good practice. Have to continue to build on that. We are getting ready to play a really good football team. There is really no homecoming games in the National Football League. Every team is good and they present some very challenging things. I have a lot of respect for (Falcons Heads Coach) Dan Quinn and everybody down there on how they built that team and what they have been going about doing. We have our work cut out for us. Really good personnel there, too. Our guys did a really good job, coming in from Monday – building on Monday – a bunch of them running around here yesterday doing the extra things on their own on their days off, which is good. Today was a good start.
On losing LB Christian Kirksey and DB E.J. Gaines for the remainder of the season:
"Part of it is. And again, obviously, it is next man up. Can't have any control over that. When I addressed you guys on Monday about that, we would see the process occur and all the testing and the evaluation occurred. I feel for both those guys – I really do. I care a lot about both – I care about all of these guys, but both of those guys. They mean well and we have to do what is right for them first and then we have to have the next man up."
On DB Denzel Ward not practicing today:
"He had a good day today. We anticipate him being fine tomorrow, but he had a god day today and that was part of the process of what we wanted done. But he has really done well on all of the things off the field to get ready for – we will see how he practices tomorrow."
On what is lost when Kirksey is not on the field:
"Well, the experience factor is always a part of anything you are doing at this very level. He has things – or has been through things – that are common sense things to the league. As coaches when you experience – they experience things. You do not have to go through every little detail. His leadership is very good. He is a vocal guy, he is an inspirational guy, he is a fun guy and very well respected on our team. Again the next guy up has to get ready to roll."
On who will start for Kirksey:
"We are going through all kinds of packages right now. We are getting ready for the packages and we will be ready by Sunday."
On Gaines' injuries this season:
"Yeah it is not an easy game. E.J. and I go way back – and I smile on my face – he grew up not far away from where I grew up. And at the University of Missouri, too. We brought him into the Rams, so I have been through a lot (with him). He is a really tough player. He went through a couple of really tough things when we were together with the Rams, too, and has overcome them. Just a part of this game. It is not easy. I think that kind of is masked by a lot of people about what these guys have to do to bounce back from injuries – how they keep their body in shape and everything. I hope the best for him and I will always stay in contact with him as he goes throughout this process right here, but he is a good football player."
On if Gaines getting placed on IR speaks to the severity of the concussion:
"I do not know that to tell you the truth. I really do not know that. That is the protocol part of it. I really do not know all the details of that, but I do want what it best for him."
On who is going to start at LT:
"Each day. So it is good to see (OL) Desmond (Harrison) bounce back up and get ready to roll. Now, what we will do is every day is an interview and both of them are taking reps. By the end of the week, we will make what is best and it is good – the fact that you have depth. Guys can compete and get ready to roll."
On the problems Falcons WR Julio Jones creates:
"Physically, he is very, very talented. And then, the interest in the target value of – and the synergy that he has with the quarterback – we have to be spot on. As you guys have seen – for many numbers of many breakdowns of everything – is how much he is targeted in a game. They understand his playmaking abilities. So do we. And so, now it is a battle of wills. We have to do things that surround him, surround the ball and make it as minimal as possible. He is a very good football player. He is a very good, athletic, talented receiver."
On if there are only a few receivers like him:
"Yeah, there really are. I say this every year – even behind the scenes – is that everybody at this level, everybody that can make a roster can play. There is the top eight, 10 or 12 in the league that are different and he is one of those guys at the very top of the league is different – athletically is different. We have our work cut out."
On if they tried out OL Greg Robinson at RT:
"We have been doing that. We have been doing that since training camp and since he has got here – since mini-camp. He has been flipping and moving around doing all those types of things, so that is part of the process of making sure we are versatile enough going into the game. When you only have seven or eight guys that are up on game day, they have to play more than one position. He can play more than one position, yes."
On if it is a three-man competition for the two tackle positions:
"No. No. Right now it is that – and I am letting (Offensive Coordinator) Freddie (Kitchens) and (Offensive Line Coach) Bob (Wylie) handle that, but we practice every week for the versatility of sometimes tackles have to play guard and sometimes guards have to play tackle. You have to do that and I do the same thing on defense. Went through that last week. All of a sudden, who had to play in some of the positions in the ball game. We will continue to be as versatile as possible and be ready to go when you have to battle through that in a game."
On LB Jamie Collins Sr.'s status:
"Basically, he had an ankle sprain at this time. Made sure that he got ready to roll and he will be up and ready to roll tomorrow at practice."
On why Robinson did not pan out as a former second overall pick and how is he different now:
"I really do not know the answer to that question. All I can tell you is that I was there at the time, but that was not my focus. But I can tell you that his focus has been good here. And sometimes – and it is always this way and I believe this with all of my heart – sometimes there is a light that clicks on in the head and it becomes more important to them than to all of us in the room. You have a better chance that way and it has to be important to you, because there are good players here competing every day that you have to compete against. He has done well. He has handled the whole situation here well."
On how LB Joe Schobert looked in his first practice back:
"Good. He did real well. I thought he bounced back fine and I thought he moved from his coaching role the last few weeks to right back into the playing role. It was also good to see the reaction of the players around him all of a sudden – how vocal he is and how much he knows. It simplifies the game and some of the alignment worlds for a lot of the people around him, because he can get you lined up in a hurry."
On if he is 'calmer' now being in the role of head coach:
"I would say this, Pat (McManamon). As all of us in here spend time through experience and everything, pretty much everything I do is premeditated. It is not me just going off the reservation. If I do go off the reservation to make myself feel better, it is about the fifth time I would have said something to somebody. All of a sudden, how am I going to get it to finally register in some of their minds and stuff? There is a difference from being the warden inside of the penitentiary of the defensive room in there to being the head coach. It is different. I have been there before – other times. From that, I have to morph to help these guys. We all have to – each person out there, each player, each coach. Me first. I have to do whatever is best to help the guys that are here. Trying to do that the best that I can."
On the performance of LB Tanner Vallejo and DB Denzel Rice in Week 9:
"Tanner did pretty good, didn't he? In the 35 snaps that he played. Knew a lot about him before he ever got here. When he was coming out we did a lot of work on him, too. When he first got here, one of the things that we wanted to make sure was that he was going to get thrown immediately into the special teams. We focused everything we could to make sure all of that was done. We had been incrementally packaging him and getting him ready for the next time that he had to be the next man up. Was happy for him. He will be one of the guys this week that will get some more plays in the packages that he plays. Denzel has been here, did the same thing, too. Have to package things for him."
On if he has the authority to make coaching changes:
"That has not even crossed. I am trying to continue to do the things that we have to do here day by day."
On if he wants to make any changes:
"Those are things that I do not discuss here. I am just trying to get through a great Wednesday – warrior Wednesday, work out Wednesday, work day Wednesday and get to Thursday."
On if not discussing certain players' status involving injuries is strategic:
"Yes (laughter). Do not need to know. They just do not need to know."
On not seeing DB Damarious Randall practice on a Wednesday for the past few weeks and returning today:
"Me either (laughter). Yes, and getting him back. He is a tough guy. Getting him back. He had a good day today. Getting him back. Yes."
On where he saw QB Baker Mayfield make strides in Week 9:
"I think that he is a very instinctual player. I said that early on. I have always said that. You can also start to see comfort instinctually. He is never relaxed. The air of he feels comfortable about what he is recognizing – and being in front of the ball and being in front of the snap – that is important. The guys that have played in it for so long, the two digit – like 10, 11, 12 (years) – like (Falcons QB) Matt Ryan, there are not a lot of things that come up in a game that Matt has never seen before. That is always hard for a young guy. I do believe that (offensive coordinator) Freddie (Kitchens) and the guys did a really good job on making sure that things were good with him. Baker was involved with exactly what kinds of plays they were, too. There was a good comfort level. Today's practice was even better."
On the efficiency of the Atlanta Falcons' offense:
"Atlanta is really good. We have been playing those teams all year long. All of a sudden, week by week, someone jumps up, someone jumps back, all of that stuff. We have improved a lot here from year one to year two in the passing game. We have to do a better job of tackling this week. We have to do that. They present some very, very good things in the passing game. We are going to have to do a very good job with that, yes."