DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TODD BOWLES
(On what he said to the defense after Tampa Bay went down 10-0 against Green Bay)
"[Aaron Rodgers] got out of the pocket twice – he made a good play on third down and then he got out of the pocket another time. We had him covered, but then he started making plays with his legs, as he usually does. We didn't try to sway away from the gameplan – we told them to stick with it, we'll start keeping him in the pocket and then those guys can start making plays. That was basically it."
(On the Las Vegas offense)
"They've got speed and power. They've got a huge offensive line – I think the running back is outstanding. [Josh] Jacobs is one of the best in the league. He's got great footwork, he's always falling forward on tackles, he can catch out of the backfield [and] he's a complete back. Then they've got [Darren] Waller at tight end. Obviously, [Jason] Witten's been playing a long time, but Waller does a lot of things for them. He's an 'X', he's a 'Z', he's a slot [receiver], he's a fullback [and] he's a tight end. They've got a huge offensive line – they play a great power game and that's without even bringing up [Henry] Ruggs [III], [Nelson] Agholor and everybody else on that team. I think [Derek] Carr is playing very good football. They've got a heck of a team. It's going to be a good challenge."
(On Raiders QB Derek Carr and how he has improved since last season)
"I didn't get to watch him much last year. I just know he's delivering the ball on time, he's very accurate, he has command of the offense, he knows exactly where everyone's going to be, he's making the correct reads and he's throwing the ball."
(On what he needs to do to make sure the defense does not get too confident)
"We've got a lot of things to get better at. I know we made plays Sunday – and we're happy we won the ballgame – but we're still scratching the surface on a lot of things [and] trying to iron out some things. Every week is a new week for us. You forget about it on Monday and you go right back to the next week – which is the game at hand – which is the Raiders. Our guys do a good job of understanding that."
(On if the defense does a good job forgetting about the previous week's performance regardless of the outcome)
"We're getting there – it's a long season. Like I said, every week you have to forget about it the next day – win, lose or draw. You try to see it the same and prepare for the journey, not just the race at hand. We're trying to get ready for the Raiders this week and keep it moving from there."
(On if he has paid attention to the COVID-related issues the Raiders have experienced this week)
"We don't monitor it for the personnel – you monitor it for the COVID. You want to be healthy, first and foremost [and] you want those guys to be healthy, first and foremost. They've played a lot of different guys this year [and] they can swing guys around. We've just got to be ready to play our game. We know they're going to field a team that's trying to beat us, so we've got to be ready to play."
(On the development of the younger players in the secondary)
"They're football players and they have a year under their belts, so they're obviously a lot smarter coming into the second year [and] have a lot more experience. Last year they were trying to learn the defense [and] what we were trying to do. This year they know the defense, so they're starting to understand what offenses are trying to do to them. They're starting to apply that, and they've done a lot of film study, so they're starting to play very well."
(On the performance of the players who filled in for injured DL Vita Vea)
"I thought they worked hard. I thought we let two runs get out of there that we have to clean up, but for the most part, as group, I thought they worked hard trying to cover up [Vea's absence]. You don't replace Vita, you just try to play differently. We tried to play a little differently, and those guys played well in what they did with Nacho (Rakeem Nunez-Roches), Will [Gholston] and [Ndamukong] Suh down there – [Jeremiah] Ledbetter came in and helped out. I thought they did a good job."
(On what DL Steve McLendon brings to the defense on the field and in the locker room)
"He's not just a great locker room guy – he has a great motor. He's a very good nose tackle. We need some depth down there at that position because it's a long season. He brings energy, he brings toughness [and] he brings strength to us. He'll fit in quite well with the guys."
(On if McLendon will make his debut Sunday and how he has practiced)
"He hasn't practiced yet. He has to clear COVID [testing protocol]."
(On the inspiration for growing a beard this season and if head coach Bruce Arians has given him compliments on it)
"He hasn't given me anything in terms of compliments. My inspiration – during COVID, I watched a lot of Fresh Price [of Bel Air], so I kind of got my Uncle Phil working for me. I saw an Idris Elba movie and I got a little five-o'clock shadow working, so I decided to keep it. I looked a little older and a little more mature. Nothing behind it."
(On how involved he was in the decision to acquire DL Steve McLendon)
"They asked me, and yes, I stood on the table for him. We need depth down there. Like I said, it's a long season. You rarely get through the season with the guys you have. It's a long season, he's a quality player, he can help us, if not now, then down the line [and] he was a good guy to get for us. Any time you can get a good player and a good person, you try to get him."
(On McLendon's decision to get to Tampa Bay quickly and what that says about his desire to contribute as quickly as possible)
"That's the kind of guy he is. He's a heck of a teammate, he's a heck of a guy, he's a heck of a leader and when he goes after something, he goes 100 percent. That's what you appreciate about him."
(On if he looks at individual players or overall concepts when scouting opposing offenses)
"We look at everything from blocking schemes to how the quarterback reads, to route combinations to hash marks. We cover everything and try to see what we can get away with. We've got a lot of coaches and a lot of guys do a good job over there trying to come up with things and see things, so we can get back and put together a gameplan."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR BYRON LEFTWICH
(On how much of the offense's identity is the ability to run the football)
"I think that's important for any offense to have the ability to run the ball, especially with the guys that we've got. I think we've got guys with Ronald [Jones II] [and] with Lenny (Leonard Fournette) that can really run the football. We've just got to continue to keep putting them in position to do that. I think we're doing a great job up front of being physical and getting a hat on a hat on guys. RoJo's getting the best out of every play. We're in a good spot from running the football [and] we want to continue to try to run the football there. That's what we want to be about. I think every good football team [has] got to be able to run the football and we want to try to continue doing that."
(On if WR Mike Evans and WR Chris Godwin practicing more consistently will help the offense develop a rhythm)
"Oh yeah. Right now, we're trying to win football games. We're going to do whatever it takes to win football games. We're not going to really worry about how we get it done. We're going to put ourselves in position to continuously win football games. It's great to have them practicing – it's been rough on us the beginning part of this year just not being able to practice. We haven't really practiced together in almost a month and a half now. To have the opportunity to practice together [and] just to get to work on some things – the way you play on Sunday really comes from the work that you put in during the week. We understand that and it's good to have some of our guys back."
(On how adding RB Leonard Fournette as competition has elevated RB Ronald Jones II's game)
"I think RoJo's always been here. I know I've been telling you guys what type of player he was. I think as a whole, collectively, we all had to learn how to get it done. I think RoJo is a young running back that had to learn a few things to be able to get in position to make the plays that he's making now. I always think he had the ability – he's an uber-talented guy [and] he's a special guy, especially with the ball in his hands. We're just seeing some of the things he can do when we're all on the same page [and] we're all doing the right thing. This is what you can get out of guys like RoJo and Leonard. I'm quite sure there's some competition there like it is with every player. But, nothing that I really notice. He always came to work and worked hard all the time."
(On how T Joe Haeg playing as a blocking tight end last week helped the offense)
"It was great for us. It was something that we thought would be good for us that week. He did a heck of a job for us, too. He did a heck of a job out there on the edge [and] he helped in the running game. Like I said, we're always trying to do whatever we can to just put ourselves in the best position to have success on every play. His number was called [and] he came and put his hand on the pile to help us win a football game."
(On if he felt there was something different in the team's preparation leading into last week's game)
"I trust in the guys, so I trust in them that if we're telling them that there's things we have to correct and things we've got to do for us to win football games, this group has always tried their best to get that done. I don't think it was so much about being undisciplined – I just think it was one of those games where it happened that way. We came to work the next week trying to work on it and trying to get better at it, and we showcased it on Sunday. These guys do a heck of a job when you come in. It's great when you come in as a coach, get with your guys and you tell them what we need to do moving forward to get better as a football team, and everybody puts their hand in the pile and does what they can to make sure we try to accomplish that. You don't always get it done – you're not going to go through games having zero penalties week in and week out. But, I do like the way that we approached the week [and] I liked the way we approached the situations of football – the in-game situations, that's part of it [and] penalties. I think we did a good job of just responding to that."
(On the competition for the third wide receiver spot and how the competition gives the offense depth at that position)
"We just want to have them out there. It doesn't matter if it's three-receiver sets [or] four-receiver sets – we want to try to put our guys in position to make plays. I think when our guys have been healthy, that's really all they've done, really. From a training camp standpoint [and] the situations we've put these guys in, they've always found a way to make plays according to their skillset. Just continuously putting them in position to make those plays. I'm sure there's some competition all over– we compete every day [and] we make sure we compete every day. But, it's really just putting guys in position when they're healthy to make the plays that they can make. That's what they've always done, that's what I've known them to do and that's what I expect, really, from all those guys."
(On how he evaluates the running backs in pass protection and pass-catching situations)
"It's not really the group – I think [it is] as a whole. I think we, as a team, we don't individualize it [and] we don't pick one group that needs to get back. I think we need to get better as a whole at all aspects. I think we can get better at running the football. I think we can get better at pass catching [and] pass protection. Even though I think we've been doing a good job, those are things that you can get better at because it's a week-in, week-out job. It's a, 'What have you done for me lately?' league, so we've got to drop last Sunday, get prepared for a good football team we're about to play and hopefully we can showcase ourselves in the right way."
(On how QB Tom Brady is able to work with and teach the younger players on the roster)
"The great thing that he does is he already developed a relationship with our young guys. So, before they had to play, there was already a relationship. That's what's special about him [and] that's what's unique. He understands, he knows everyone on the team [and] he works with everyone on the team. He throws footballs to [Jaydon] Mickens, he throws footballs to Cyril [Grayson and] he throws them to J-Wat (Justin Watson). It isn't just, 'I'm throwing to Chris [Godwin and] I'm throwing to Mike [Evans].' When we had to put those guys in the game, it wasn't brand new. They kind of already had a relationship [with Brady] and that's really just who he is as a player [and] who he is as a person. He's a better person than he is a football player, and that's saying a lot. I just think the way he communicates with the guys [and] the way he communicates with the team, it's something unique and something special."
(On T Tristan Wirfs' progression)
"Like I said from the beginning, the second he stepped in the huddle, he's been playing his tail off. He's a big guy – he's a big, strong guy that acts like a 10-year vet. You never really see him joking around. He's constantly serious [and] he's constantly working on his game. Even though when you see him [and] he looks like a big kid, he's really strong, he's really powerful [and] he's really aware. The awareness that he plays with allows him to go out and use his tools, use his technique [and] use his abilities to go out and play the way that he's been playing for us. Hopefully he can keep that up."
(On what the offense needs to keep an eye on with the Las Vegas defense)
"They play a physical football game. They've got guys running around. You see all the guys – they're attracted to the football. They try to attack the football [and] they try to attack the guy carrying the football. They try to play the game in a physical way. It's all over the tape, so we know we've got a great opponent coming in here Sunday night that we've got to get ready for that's going to play a violent football game. We've just got to make sure we're ready."
CORNERBACKS COACH KEVIN ROSS
(On the sideline conversation following the 10-0 deficit vs. Green Bay)
"Basically, it was a no-panic conversation. We had went through that before with L.A. and we just told them [to] keep their composure, play what they see and play like they can play."
(On if the cornerbacks have increased their awareness of what offenses are trying to do)
"They have to put the time in on the film because you're playing man-to-man and you're playing zone. We play so many techniques out there and that's what people don't understand. They adapt pretty well to the system, and like I said, they do a lot of film study. That film study is helping them play faster [and] it's slowing the game down for them. They're starting to recognize splits and tendencies of people. They're just playing at a high level right now."
(On the complexity of Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles' system)
"I'm used to it under Todd. Todd has a hell of a system. You just have to be able to teach a lot of techniques. They're not there yet. We're not there completely yet, but we are getting better at what we're doing. We should start peaking in the middle of next month or the end of next month. We hope to be peaking at that particular time. The confidence is growing in the back end, which is really good because they allow us to do a lot of things. The more they can do, the more we can dial up."
(On DB Mike Edwards making the most of his opportunities)
"A guy like Mike, a guy like [Jamel] Dean – they play limited time, but their production on the field when they get on the field is high. They're playmakers – they find the ball. If you find the ball, you make a lot of money."
QUARTERBACK TOM BRADY
(On the 'Tuck Rule Game' and if he has ever hashed it out with Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden)
"I've only been around him a few times – not too often – but it gets brought up every time we are around one another. I could see why he hasn't gotten over it. One of my ex-teammates Charles Woodson – we've been together probably more than that and he and I have hashed it out. That was just an unbelievable game. I still see it today and it's a great part of my football history and it's probably a very sour part of their football history, but that's the way it goes. We had that in '07 when we played against the Giants in the Super Bowl, and in '11 and in '17 – one team wins and one team loses – it's a fluke call, one ball bounces your way or one goes the opposite way. I'll always feel I have some type of strong feeling or emotion toward the Raiders. I've played them a few times since and they've got a great history of football [and] football players. Al Davis [is] just one of the pioneers in the history of the NFL. Whenever you play them, you kind of always feel that. I remember we used to go to the old Oakland Coliseum, and you sit down and look at that guide. It shows you all of the different players they've had and their contributions to the NFL. It's pretty neat playing against them. I know they've moved on to a different place, but they're still the Raiders and they're having a hell of a season. They've got a lot of talented players. It's going to be a tough, hard-nosed game. They're obviously well-coached and have a great staff. I think they've got a great quarterback and they've got a good offense, good running back, good tight end and a lot of speed at receiver. They've got a really good young defense, good guys in the secondary, really athletic guys at linebacker and a lot of high-motor guys on the defensive line. It's a really good football team and we've got our work cut out for us. And we've got to play better on the road – I think that's something that's a big point of emphasis for us."
(On the Buccaneers offensive line through six weeks)
"I think they're doing a great job. I've got so much trust in Donnie (Donovan Smith), Cap (Alex Cappa), Ali [Marpet], Ryan [Jensen] and Tristan [Wirfs]. What they've done as a unit and with their coach – they've got a great coach, Goody (Harold Goodwin) is a hell of an o-line coach – the ability for them to play together and consistently like they have, they're a lot of tough guys who take a lot of pride in what they do. Every day that goes by we're trying to get better and improve the process of the plays that we're running, trying to get better with our scheme and our communication. Every time something comes up that's new, we talk about it. We know that if it comes up again, we're going to hammer it the next time. It's really important – that's what you've got to do during football season. You understand that when you start the season, you're not in mid-season form. That's why it's call mid-season form because it takes time to work these kinks out. There are a lot of things and we've got to get there, but the only way to get there is to work at it every day. The only way to work at it every day is to have a good attitude [and] enthusiasm. Everyone show up to work today to work to understand that this is a commitment we have to make to one another. You talk about the errors, then you make them right and then you go out there the next day and you try to build on it. There are a lot of things we've got to improve. We're definitely not where we want to be and we've got to take our consistency and our dependability up a level. We've got to play winning football every week and every half. When we're in stretches where we are out of rhythm, we have to find our way back in rhythm. We've got to find a way to take the ball, move it down and score points. Our defense has done a great job for us turning the ball over [and] keeping us in a lot of these games when we haven't rose to the occasion. And I think there are moments where we know as an offense, we're going to have to do that too. That's going to be what our responsibility is."
(On his relationship with former Michigan teammate and Raider Charles Woodson)
"Charles and I were in the freshman locker room in Michigan together in 1995. He was a Heisman Trophy winner [and] I was just some schlep, backup quarterback when he left at the time. When he left, he went on to greatness right away as a first-round pick and it took a little while for me to develop. Just watching him develop into the type of player he was and obviously, playing against him with the Raiders and the Packers and back at the Raiders – he became one of the greatest defensive backs in the history of the NFL. I think there's a lot of mutual admiration – I certainly do [have it] for him. We've gotten closer as the years have gone by. He lives in Orlando, he plays a lot of golf, he's into wine – I never thought Charles would be into wine [being] from Freemont, Ohio. Now he's a wine drinker – go figure. He's a hell of a guy and just been a great friend for a long time. When you know someone for 25 years and the type of character he was and the type of player he was, he's a big part of that Raiders history and franchise. It's a pretty great relationship we've had over the years [and I'm] happy to see his success off the field as well. He's a great guy."
(On what he has seen in practice that indicates the team is making progress and heading in the right direction)
"I think a lot of it is continued chemistry and attitude, and a lot of it is a feeling out there in practice. Confidence, are we improving? You can measure yourself week-to-week and, 'How does this day compare to last Thursday? How can we improve our process?' Every year is a little bit different. For me, it's been that way every year. You may think going into the year that this is going to be the focal point of the offense, and then it's just not. For one reason or another it's not and then you have to transition and change it. We've got to get everyone out there together consistently at practice and improve through practice so that in the game, we can play with confidence and anticipation, so the execution is at a higher level. A lot of people take their foot off the gas. For me, I think that it's been important to put even more pressure on the gas pedal. It's just more. Every week you just empty the tank. I don't know what it looks like on Monday. If you empty the tank through your preparation [and] through all the work that you're doing and then you play the game on Sunday, Monday you wake up and you're exhausted. But, you know what? You've got to ramp it back up [on] Monday and Tuesday. You've got to fill the tank, be ready for Wednesday and empty the tank again that week. There's no shortcut. It's a long year and that's where mental toughness comes into play. Guys are very physically tough – there's no doubt about it. Mental toughness is a very important part of football because this is a marathon. You don't wake up in Week 7 or 8 and say, 'Man, I feel so fresh. This is a piece of cake.' NFL football is just not like that. It's demolition derby out there. There's a lot of guys with a lot of bumps and bruises. It's less sleep, then it's travel, it's frustration for different things. You lose the game, you're frustrated. You don't play as well as you're capable of playing [and] you're frustrated. You've got to deal with those emotions. There's a constant challenge in there and everyone's got to find the way that they deal with that the best. But, you've got to embrace that about yourself and then be open about that with your teammates so that when you come in, you accept the coaching, you understand the responsibility as a player to your teammates and you try to make it better every day. When players see your commitment to it, they believe in you. Even if it doesn't go right, they still believe that you care enough to make the commitment to make it better. I think that's very important, too."
(On different keys to preparing for night games that he has spoken about to teammates who may not have played in as many as he has)
"I think there's a lot of different routines. You play all the standard games. The night games, I think those are always fun for everybody. I certainly enjoy it because when you're an NFL player, you play a Sunday game at 1 p.m. or 4 p.m., then you see that Sunday Night Football game – I'm sure that's on most guys' TV on Sunday at 8 o'clock [because] you're home, your day's over and you've got TV on. When you're playing Sunday Night Football [and] Monday Night Football, you know it's a very cool occasion when you're the team playing. A lot of players are watching you and you want to go out there and you want to perform well on the biggest stage. You see what you're made of in these primetime games where there's a lot of focus and attention. We've got to bring – when we're going on the road especially – our very best. Usually you're going and you can bring the group you've got. You've got to go to an opposing stadium and they've got 70,000 fans plus their team and you've got your team. It's a little bit different this year, but we've got to win on the road. We've had three opportunities [and] we're one-for-three. We've got to get two-for-four. It's a tough place to play. The Saints had a tough time there and Buffalo played [well] and beat them there. But, they want to play well, too, and their goals are ahead of them. We've got one more day to prepare and then more mental preparation and then we've got to get ready to go."
(On why he did not shake hands with Bears QB Nick Foles following the game against Chicago in Week 5)
"I didn't even think about that. I think Nick Foles is a hell of a player and a Super Bowl champion. I don't know one reason or another why I wouldn't do that, but I don't know. Sometimes I've run off the field [and] sometimes I haven't. Sometimes if I have a personal relationship like I do with Drew [Brees], Justin [Herbert] and Aaron [Rodgers] over the years – I don't think it's anything in particular, other than I have great admiration for Nick. He's a hell of a player and they're off to a great start."
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN WILLIAM GHOLSTON
(On what about this team is different from previous seasons that has allowed them to have a strong start to the season)
"Personally, I think it's the confidence and the belief. We believe in one another and we have confidence in the coaches and in each player. You can see it on the sidelines. We saw it earlier in the season – we had a game that we probably would've lost in my past years here. But, the confidence and belief that we have in each other and trusting in the coaching and our abilities, I think that's helping us out a lot."
(On how much fun he is having in his role on the defense this season)
"It's amazing – it's a lot of fun. [There are] ups and downs just like anything in life, but I'm having the most fun I've ever had playing football since I've been in high school. So, whatever is going on, I hope it keeps going on. Whatever I can do, I'm going to do."
(On the challenges the Raiders' offense presents to Tampa Bay's defense)
"The Raiders have a very, very well-tuned offense. They run the ball very well [and] the running backs fall forward. [Derek] Carr takes a lot of shots – he's got the deep ball going [and] they've got extremely fast receivers, so they have an explosive offense and a great running game. The offensive line moves well – when you watch the film, you see the offensive line stands out. The biggest challenge for us is to be able to execute our gameplan. We have to go in there and do exactly what we need to do without making any mistakes."