DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On the report that he will be interviewing for the Atlanta Falcons head coaching vacancy)
"Yeah, that's true. Right now, I'm focusing on the playoff game. That will come in time and I will deal with that then."
(On Washington potentially using two quarterbacks in the game on Saturday and how different there offense will be if they switch between Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke)
"I mean, it's pretty much the same offense so we'll prepare as normal and whichever quarterback plays, plays."
(On being able to return to the building and do his job as normal this week after spending part of last week in quarantine)
"It feels great. Obviously, everybody is dealing with it and the league is dealing with it. You kind of have to make do as well, so the coaches did a great job while I was out, and it's just good to be back in the building."
(On how his defensive players stepped up in the absence of multiple players, including OLB Shaquil Barrett, CB Carlton Davis III, DL Steve McLendon and LB Devin White)
"I thought those guys played tough. Obviously, they're different types of players than the ones that are out, but I thought they played tough [and] had the 'next man up' mentality. They came up and made some plays and helped us win the game."
(On how defensive linemen Khalil Davis and Benning Potoa'e played in Week 17)
"They did some good things [and] they did some things we've got to work on, but overall, they fought and that was the best thing they did – they fought and gave us the chance to make some plays. The experience will come."
(On Washington's offensive skill players like WR Terry McLaurin and RB Antonio Gibson)
"They present a ton of problems. Also, they have [J.D.] McKissic, as well, and they've got both Sims guys (Cam Sims and Steven Sims Jr.) that play very well. McLaurin can run every route. He can run the route tree, he's very fast, he's very polished and he can do a lot of things. [Logan] Thomas has become a very good tight end in this league working his way in from [being] a quarterback. He throws it, he runs routes [and] he blocks well. Between Gibson and McKissic coming out of the backfield – both used to play wide receiver as well as run the ball – they present a lot of matchup problems that way."
(On the energy in the locker room having a mix of players who have been to the playoffs and others who will be making their playoff debuts on Saturday)
"It's been great for the guys that have been here for a while, like Lavonte [David], that hadn't gone to the playoffs [and are] going for the first time. I'm very happy for him and hope to continue that if we win the ballgame. For the young guys just getting here for the first time, [I'm] trying to make sure they relish and cherish the opportunity because a lot of guys have played their whole careers and haven't gone to the playoffs, so you've got to make the most of it."
(On if he watches additional film on Washington QB Taylor Heinicke knowing he might play on Saturday)
"Yes, you do. You've got to do your homework. We understand if he plays, we understand if the backup lineman plays or the other wide receivers come in the game, we've got to know exactly what they're bringing to the table and try to defend those guys."
(On where play time stands for cornerbacks such as Ross Cockrell and Herb Miller with the hope that CB Carlton Davis III will return for Saturday's game)
"They've earned some trust to get some reps in there, but obviously it depends on the gameplan and schematically what we're trying to do and how we're trying to do it. Those guys are ready to play. If Carlton's ready to play, he'll play. If not, we'll adjust accordingly."
(On if facing a quarterback who is not known for his mobility like QB Alex Smith changes the way he will defend and implement blitz schemes)
"No, it doesn't change much. Alex is a very smart quarterback. He understands what he has to do to get rid of the football, when he can and can't make plays and he's been doing it for a long time. He's very savvy that way, so we've got to be prepared for the best Alex Smith we're going to face."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BYRON LEFTWICH
(On if the offensive linemen and QB Tom Brady have paid attention to Washington DE Chase Young's comments)
"I'm a coach now, so I don't really look at those things. Those are things the players do every week – those type of things happen. I think it's great because it's the energy. Everyone's excited to be in the playoffs – it is what it is. I don't put too much thought into it now that I'm a coach because the game has to get played Saturday night. We're just trying to prepare [and] do what we need to do to get ready to play a good football team Saturday night."
(On how Tampa Bay's offense counters Washington's defensive front)
"You play football [and] you try to put yourself in the best position possible. I don't think we struggled as much as people may say. We just have to get prepared for a good football team – none of that stuff matters. I've got to put these guys in position to do the things that they need to do to give ourselves an opportunity to win the football game. We'll have a tough opponent, obviously, but we'll try to prepare this week [and] get ourselves on a roll to be ready to roll Saturday night."
(On if there is a team Tampa Bay faced this season that Washington's defensive front resembles)
"It's hard to find five first-round picks up front, right? It's hard to really find that across the league. Like I tell you guys all the time, the guys that are so good are the guys that have their hand in the ground. They give you the toughest job week in and week out – the athletes that put their hand in the ground and whose job is to come get the quarterback – they're getting more special each year [that passes]. It's tougher and tougher year in and year out – week in and week out – especially with different opponents you play. Everybody has good football players -- especially up front in the defensive line – no matter who you play. Each week, week in and week out, you're facing tough opponents, tough competitors [and] guys that know how to get to the quarterback. We just have to do the things that we need to do to make sure we're doing our job."
(On QB Tom Brady's intensity now that it is the postseason)
"Really, it's the same as any other week to be honest with you. We try to play our best and give our best effort week in and week out. It shouldn't take the playoffs to get extra energy [and] to get anything extra. I think we did a good job all year of doing that week in and week out. Sometimes we weren't successful, but we did a great job of coming in the next week, working the same way [and] still putting a lot of energy and effort in our work and our preparation. That's our mindset – it's all about preparation for us right now [and] getting ourselves ready to roll for Saturday night."
(On WR Antonio Brown's play in recent weeks and how he has grown with Brown this season)
"We knew it would take some time. I think he came in here in great shape, to be honest with you. He got here in great shape. I knew it would be a couple weeks for him to stick his foot in the ground and be moving the way that he wanted to move, especially just learning a few things here and there. Now I think he just has an awareness and an understanding of where he needs to be, what's going on, how he can get the ball in his hands from a route standpoint and what he needs to do to get open. I just think he's being himself. This is all I've ever known of him – he's always had this energy [and] he's always been able to stick his foot in the ground, get open [and] do those type of things that great wide receivers do. He's always had that capability. Even when he first walked through the door on day one, he walked in with those attributes. Now he's just fine tuning them while being in better shape. You've got to think [about it] – it was a year and some change I believe that he was off the football field, so what he's come in and done has really been amazing – the way he works is not a surprise to us. [It's] how he got to where he's at right now."
(On if he thought the offense would run out of time to get to a point the players and staff wanted it to be before the postseason)
"No. The key for us was just to win games during the process. This league is about winning – don't be fooled. Week in and week out there will be different storylines, but we understand [after] being in this game as long as we've been in it – playing and coaching in it – it's about winning football games. We knew we were a work in progress – we still [are] – but we wanted to win football games while we were going through that process. I think we could've done a better job than what we've done, but I think we did enough to get to the tournament. It's all about getting to the tournament at this point – nothing [else] matters. Now it's going out and trying to do what you can to win the football game."
(On if he is most comfortable as a play-caller at this point in the season)
"I think it took [time]. Earlier in the year I think we had some early success and then we had moments where we had to learn from in-game situations. I think we learned together collectively. I know Tom [Brady] now and I think I have a good idea of how he thinks and how he sees every concept that we're running now. It wasn't just me or the players – it was just us being out there enough, especially with not having [any] offseason and everybody being pretty much new. Just getting to the right places [and] us having an understanding of what we need to do to have consistent success. We had success throughout the year, but we had lulls throughout the season where we probably didn't play as well. But, we did what we needed to do to win the football games."
(On if WR Antonio Brown is up to speed with the playbook and if he feels comfortable using Brown at any receiver position)
"We can put him wherever we need to put him. It wasn't all new to him – it was just different. He was just out of football, really, for a year and a half. That's what it really comes down to. I was able to communicate with him because I can talk our language [and] I can talk the language that I talked to him when he first came in this league, because it's all about getting him in position [and] getting him awareness to where he needs to be, what we're thinking from a conceptual standpoint and what we're trying to get accomplished on each play. It was just a matter of getting these plays, getting him in and out of huddles [and] getting him reps in practice to make sure we can get him in the right spots."
(On reports that he is considered a candidate to become the head coach at his alma mater, Marshall University)
"I'm worried about this game. I don't even know how to answer that question. I just heard about that myself, too, so I'll just say that. This time of year [is when] all these things tend to happen. We're worried about this football game Saturday night."
(On what he has liked about coaching TE Rob Gronkowski and what Gronkowski has brought to the team this season)
"I tell people all the time [and] anybody I meet that's asking me [that] question, I tell them, 'I wish I could see the world the way he sees it.' I don't think he's ever had a bad day, to be honest with you. It's an amazing thing to see the world the way that he sees the world. He's smiling all the time, he's having fun all the time. 'Old Gronkitis' – that's what we call him. Gronkitis. He has fun, man. He has fun, he loves the game of football [and] the work he puts in is real [and] is serious. It's just amazing the way he sees the world, not just the way that he sees football. I wish I could see the world the way that Gronk sees the world because that's a refreshing way to be and that's a refreshing way to live your life on a day-to-day basis."
(On what is different about playing quarterback in the postseason)
"Just everything matters. I think every quarterback in the playoff this year, they understand [that] everything matters [and] every little play matters. Every little second, every little inch matters. This is good on good football now, so you've got to do the things you need to do to play your best. It takes a focus, it takes a work ethic [and] it takes a lot of different things to be in those positions and understand, 'Hey, if we have 50, 60, 70, 80 plays, we've go to be able to lock in and focus and execute every one of those. Just the importance of every play, because you never know which play can have a huge impact on the football game, so you try to prepare yourself to play your best for all of them."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On Washington DE Chase Young's comments following Washington's Week 17 victory)
"He's obviously a great young player. We've got our hands full with that D-Line – one of the best D-Lines in the league. Chase is a great young player – he went to Ohio State, so naturally I think that Ohio State-Michigan thing wears off on him a little bit. I understand that. We're prepared for a tough challenge and it should be a fun game."
(On how comfortable he feels in the Tampa Bay offense and how close of a unit the offense is entering the postseason)
"I'd say every week is getting a little bit better and a little bit more consistent [with] better communication. We're all understanding each other a little bit better each week. Football season is tough – there's a lot of things to coordinate, there's a lot of moving parts, different players and in and out, you're running different schemes. But I think we've just tried to not take the foot off the gas pedal [and] tried to understand each other a little bit better each week and try to put ourselves in a decent position. Any time you make the playoffs, it's a good feeling and it's a great opportunity to be playing this weekend. A privilege, I think, for all of us. I think we want to go make the most of it. Playoff football is pretty special to be a part of and I'll be excited to be out there Saturday night."
(On if his feelings entering the postseason are different now that he is playing for a different team)
"I think over the year you've just got to deal with a lot of different things [that] kind of have come up with me being in a different place. Today for example, it was 60-plus degrees at practice for a playoff game. I haven't had too many of those, even in 20 years. I think it's a different newness, but the same excitement to be ready to go out there and take a bunch of teammates. Going on the road in the playoffs is a tough thing to do. We're a team that's made a bunch of improvements over the course of the year and we have to be at our best. That's what this part of the season is all about. Regular season is what it is, you put it in the books [and] we're here to win playoff games."
(On his pre-practice throwing competitions with coaches and other quarterbacks on the roster)
"We've had a lot of fun with those competitions. I'm going up against a tough group of judges – they've had a long history. I think the Patriots bias from Clyde [Christensen] -- all those years with the Colts – still works against me. He definitely has a little Griff (Ryan Griffin) bias – I think Griff might be his favorite. It's kind of like [when] you have kids and one of them is your favorite kid. Clyde doesn't really hide his bias, either. He just kind of lets you know and he's always rooting against me, so I've got to overcome that to win. I've won my fair share, so I'm OK. As long as I get a podium [spot], I'm OK with that. I don't always need to finish first, but at least it gets me prepared for the game."
(On the importance of taking advantage of this postseason opportunity and if he has reminded the team of having a sense of urgency this week)
"I think that nothing is given – you have to earn everything. You get to this point in the year, you have to earn it. To win this game, you've got to earn it. You're playing against teams that have really proven themselves to be the best teams in their divisions all year. We're going up against a division winner and a team that's very talented. Certainly, on defense they have a lot of playmakers, so we have to put it all together. In order to advance, you have to play good football. You can only win one game a week and you're not promised anything. There's what – six games this weekend? There are six teams that won't be practicing on Monday and there's six that will be. You want to be one of those teams from this week that continues to play on, but you have to play well. If you don't play well, chances are you'll be watching next weekend."
(On the offensive line's performance this season)
"They've done a tremendous job. That group up front with Donnie [Smith], Ali [Marpet], Ryan [Jensen], Cap (Alex Cappa), Tristan [Wirfs], Joe Haeg's played a role, A.Q. [Shipley] has played a role, 'Wellsy' (Josh Wells) has played a role. They've really come together [and] they're really well coached with Joe [Gilbert] and 'Goody' (Harold Goodwin). It's a unique relationship [between] the quarterback and the O-Linemen. I love that group of guys. They work their [butts] off, they're tough, hard-nosed guys [and] they want to do the right thing. The communication had continued to improve over the course of the year, and we've got a great relationship. We're going to keep building it [and] keep working at it. Again, I think we're going up against one of the biggest challenges we've faced all year – a team that's got five first-round picks on the D-Line. Just a real tremendous group. They put pressure on the quarterback [on] almost every play, so we've got to step up to that challenge. Hopefully we're ready to meet it. It's going to be a big test for us, but I certainly love going to battle with those guys up front."
GUARD ALI MARPET
(On the challenge presented by Washington defensive front)
"It's absolutely a challenge. Washington has a good defensive front. I think as an offensive line, we know – not just in playoffs – because of playing a good defense, it's our job to step up and put it on our shoulders if we can."
(On how well he feels the offensive line is playing at this point in the season)
"Our expectations for ourselves are always very high. I think that we always are critical of how we can do things better, but I think that we've taken steps in the right direction. I think that we've done some things that we can build on. Hopefully we can start playing our best football."
(On his emotions heading into his first NFL playoff game)
"I'm extremely excited. I think every day coming into the building there's just a little more excitement and a little bit more enthusiasm. I think that obviously there are some times during the season [where] your body is feeling a little beaten down and sometimes you feel that. But you kind of shake it off [for the playoffs] and feel really good and just excited – it's an awesome feeling."
(On Washington rookie edge rusher Chase Young and how rare it is to see a rookie playing as well as he is so early in his career)
"It's rare. I think that we have one at tackle (Tristan Wirfs) that's playing very well coming right out of the gate. It's rare, but I guess we happen to have one too."
TIGHT END ROB GRONKOWSKI
(On how much more comfortable he feels at this point in the season compared to when he initially returned to football)
"I definitely feel good [and] feel comfortable with the playbook, especially. Also, just going out there and playing with my body, [it] just feels good [and] it just feels like it's a natural routine week in and week out now. That's the way it's supposed to be, that's the way I planned on it to be and how I saw it to be. It's just week in and week out, just a daily routine to get out there, get better, focus on things I need to focus on, get treatment and get myself ready to go every single week."
(On what has allowed him to succeed in the postseason throughout his career)
"It's a whole different season. Literally, nothing matters [with] what we did in the regular season. All 16 of those games, they didn't exist. Yes, they got us to this point, but now we're at this point [where] those games don't matter at all. It's another level of play. You've got to dot the I's and cross the T's when preparing for playoff games and you've got to make sure that you're just on top of everything from your routes, blitz, the run game. I would just say carrying it over from the regular season [and] not slacking at all when it comes to the playoffs. Making sure we stay on top of our reps [and] making sure we stay on top of our chemistry. Just bringing it to the playoffs and being prepared to the best that we can be."
(On how he is feeling after playing in all 16 regular season games this season)
"I feel really good. Just been taking care of my body week in and week out. I'm definitely proud to play all 16 games – that was my goal, just to go out there and be reliable week in and week out and be consistent week in and week out. Now, bring that to the playoffs and bring that to another level for the playoffs. I feel real good and it was definitely a good season overall, but it's playoff time and [we] just have to keep doing what we've been doing all year [and] keep doing what I've been doing to keep myself healthy and keep myself ready for every Sunday."