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REX: It’s All About This Game and That’s It

Posted Dec 11, 2013

Transcript of head coach Rex Ryan's Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Outstanding practice today. Tempo was great. Guys were bouncing around. I think a good job in the classroom. Obviously, you have a brand new opponent that we’re really not familiar with, so you have to pay attention. The beginning of the week is always like that. You also like to get a little taste of what the team’s all about that you’re playing and then go out on the practice field. I was pleased with how we practiced today. I thought Geno [Smith] threw the ball well. Obviously, it’s very challenging what they do as a football team. They give you a lot of multiple things. So I think our guys did a good job considering it’s the first day of the week.

Guys that did not practice: [Antonio] Cromartie with his hip and concussion and he’s right now just following the NFL protocol for that. Stephen Hill did not practice with his knee and that’s more just trying to get him back, try to get him to where he can run out there, put that 4.2 [speed] out there. Kellen Winslow with his knee was held out and that’s more the pitch-count deal, wanting him to work more Thursday than Wednesday, so that’s just like we did this past week, so that’s what that’s about. And then the two guys that were limited today, Santonio Holmes with a foot/hamstring and then Garrett McIntyre with his knee. Everybody else was full today.

On if Stephen Hill could be done for the year…

I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously, we’d like to get him out here if he can play and can be effective. Obviously, that would be the best thing for us, best scenario for us. We’ll see how it progresses.

On if Hill has been bothered by his knee all season…

Well, I think it’s been more evident of us the last several weeks and then I think we’ve all been like “What’s going on here?” And then I think it’s become clear that he’s had some swelling, some issues with his knee where he hasn’t been able to burst out of breaks and things like that. He was practicing. He’s gutting it out. He’s tough. He’ll do those things, but how much that’s helped him, obviously it hasn’t helped him a whole lot. We’re just trying to get him back to where he can really run and burst out of cuts and things like that.

On Hill’s rate of development this year…

Well, it doesn’t look good in particular, I think, but the knee might have been a major contributing factor with that. Obviously, when you look at the numbers, it looks like he’s not progressing. But again, we’ll see. I think part of this knee, hopefully he’ll get healthy these next couple weeks and be able to get out there and show what he can do.

On if he regrets drafting Hill where they did…

No, I think so many times it’s early in the process. Nobody’s going to give a grade when it’s during the season of a draft grade, would they [joking]? But really, I think it’s really by year three I think that’s the big one. You’ll know if this guy’s really hit it, this guy maybe hasn’t been as good. Certainly by the numbers I understand that you expect a certain amount of production. But there’s some contributing factors here. I know one thing, he had a great training camp and I think we were all excited about him. I know I was excited about seeing him make those steps. Sometimes you’re limited through different things.

On what playing meaningful games in December says about him…

Well I just think as a team, as an organization, our guys will compete every day and they’ll get out and they’ll try to get better and I think you saw that through the offseason with the attendance and the way we worked in the weightroom and conditioning. We’re trying to put ourselves in a situation where we knew going into the season that "Hey, look, this is one thing we can be better at than any team in the league. We don’t have to have the best quarterback, the best whatever or whatever." So we set our sights that way and I think our guys did a great job of that.

And then we talked about preparation. I think our guys do a great job in the classroom and preparing and getting the proper rest in the evenings and all those type of things. We can affect that and I think we’ve done a good job of that. As far as the other things, the expectations, we set our own expectations and worked to them. It’s impossible to not understand where we were picked and all that kind of stuff, I get it. For us right now, it’s all about this game and that’s it and we know. How important is this game? Well, it means everything to us. We know how important this game is and that’s it. But our focus ends right there, so it’s all about this is what we have, what’s behind us is behind us. We’ve learned from it and we’re at this stage and we know we’re going to do everything in our power to be at our very best when we play this game.

On if he has personal pride with how the season has gone…

No, I don’t even think about it. I think maybe at the end of the season you’ll go back and you’ll look at what you did well and what didn’t do well or something like that, time to reflect. But right now it’s about the present. It’s about right now. It’s about getting this team to play this week and I think we’ll be prepared. There’s no doubt we’ll be prepared.

On what Dee Milliner did to play better last week…

I just think first off, he knew his opponent well. He knew what to expect. I think that’s a big plus and part of that. Well, shouldn’t you know that each week? Yeah, you do. But I think knowing your calls and tying in your calls and your assignment and the opponent, all those type of things, I thought he did a great job of that. And the other thing is, he flat competed. He went out and he competed. And that was what we were talking to our guys about and get back to doing that and I thought he did a good job.

On if he wanted to see Milliner compete for balls down field…

Yeah, and I think for all our guys, I’m tired of seeing the jump balls being caught and us misjudging it. Like, go out and get them. Let’s make teams pay for it. They’re just throwing up punts up there and they’ve come down with it. But really just getting after it and obviously this week, what a challenge this week is. Steve Smith’s a tough dude, now. He’s a tough guy. I love the way he competes. They’ve got other guys as well. It’s going to be a big challenge.

On how he evaluated Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson

Well, I think both guys are outstanding players. I think for us, we felt really good about two of our young big guys with Kenrick Ellis and Snacks [Damon Harrison]. We felt we had those two big ones. But I think why we wanted to take Sheldon was a little more different than what we had, but he would provide us with just that real athletic guy that you can fit a 3-4, fit a 4-3, penetrating-type guy is what we were looking for. That’s why we took him. Both those guys are playing extremely well. For us, as much as I like the big guy, I think it fit us better. I like the pick there of Sheldon. He’s had a tremendous year and he’s got a great future here.

On why he thinks Richardson should be Defensive Rookie of the Year…

I just look at the film, base it on production and the production’s a huge part of it. The way he plays, he’s got that relentless motor and for a defensive tackle and being as productive as he is, it doesn’t show necessarily in the sack total. He’s got 3.5 or something. He’s had maybe 28 hits on the quarterback or something like that. And then the way he’s played screen games, his tackles are probably amongst the leaders in the league for defensive linemen. So I think with that, and the tape doesn’t lie.

On if he was too conservative with Smith…

Yeah, maybe so. Maybe when you look back on it, maybe I did a poor job of that of just stressing it. And maybe that took away from us a little bit. So I’m obviously the guy responsible for that.

On what his brother has told him about the Panthers…

He gave me a list of 12 different things [joking]. No, I’m just kidding. But guys, I really never talked to him [joking]. They’re not believing that, you’re not believing that, so the truth is absolutely I talked to him. I talked to him right after the game, whatever time that was. I talked to him the next day. So anything that you can pick up, you’re going to try to see how it would fit what you do. Now, we’re not going to change our scheme or something like that, but we may look at some things that maybe some tips or anything like that.

On who is playing Cam Newton in practice…

Well, I thought about putting Calvin [Pace] out there since they’re the exact same size, like, jeez [joking]. No, we’ve got them running around, both [Matt] Simms and David [Garrard] are trying to do their best.

On what the Panthers do defensively that creates problems for a young quarterback…

Well, I love the way they play. These guys, they fly around. So their tempo is really something. I think from just their players, the middle linebacker [Luke] Kuechly, like I say, he’s a tackling machine, got great instincts. And he just closes like nobody’s business and reminds me of a young [Brian] Urlacher. He’s quite a player. He’s always around the football. And then they’ve got two ends that can really rush and pressure. So that’s, from a personnel pressure, that presents a lot of problems.

But overall, the way the energy that they play with, these guys are flying around and you get that way, that kind of tempo for 60 minutes. It says a lot about Ron [Rivera] and the way he coaches that defense. And then there’s other things. They’ll do multiple things on defense as well. But what I’ve been more impressed with than anything else is just their mentality, how they play.

On if Ellis Lankster will start in place of Cromartie if he cannot play…

Again, we’ll look at that. That’s certainly a possibility. If that’s the case, they might as well put two boxing gloves on those kids. We’d pay to watch that one because they’re both the same kind of guys, Steve Smith and him are very similar that way, very competitive guys. But that’s a possibility. We also have [Darrin] Walls as a possibility as well.

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